Unauthorised pay-TV connections are increasingly becoming a thorn in the flesh for service providers even as competition hots up.
The trend is more prevalent among those living in high-rise buildings where, when a single connection is “pirated,” its shared among households.
Many Kenyan households, especially those living in flats, in urban areas, access pay-TV services through illegal connections or “pirated connections”. As pay-TV firm increase, the number of illegal connections are set to rise.
“Yes, illegal connections are a problem, in the industry, especially, targeting those who use satellite dishes,” said Mr Leo Lee, Startimes Media Kenya chief executive.
Kenyan pay-TV service providers say they are losing revenue, as is the government and the entertainment industry.
To deal with these acts of sabotage, pay-TV providers are taking up the fight on two fronts — technologically and legally.
Shut down connection
“East Africa is our only market and we have to take it very seriously,” said Hannelie Bekker the head of programming at Wananchi.
Wananchi, the providers of pay-TV services through the brand Zuku, said it has adopted video finger printing, where software identifies, extracts and then compresses characteristic components of a video, enabling that video to be uniquely identified by its resultant “fingerprint”.
When the pay-TV services provider is alerted of a pirated connection, they can turn on the fingerprint, which will then display the customer’s card number on the screen. Once the customer number is identified, Wananchi can then shut down the connection.
However, one of the biggest challenge is that finger printing is not automatic, Wananchi have to be alerted of the illegal connection, meaning that someone has to be physically present to see the pirate broadcast and note the serial number displaying on the screen, according to Ms Bekker.
She notes that alerts come from agents, installers, content owners and customers.
“So no — we don’t have official “patrols”, just a lot of people who have their eyes open and their ears to the ground,” Ms Bekker said.
English premier league
Wananchi said they are currently targeting five pirated connections, “all of who have come to our attention in the last few days,” she said.
Ms Bekker said the Hindi channels are the ones that seem to be targeted by pirates, in Kenya and Tanzania.
On the part of Multichoice Kenya, providers of Dstv, the sports channel, are the prime target.
The English premier league broadcast, and a wider variety of sports, has been one of the Dstv selling points, and also the reason attracting illegal connections.
“Piracy is a concern from various perspectives the government is losing revenue from the taxation of the sets, industry providers and content providers are also losing revenue,” said Mr Danny Muchira, general manager Multichoice Kenya.
He said they are working closely with government agencies like the Kenya Copyright Board that are mandated to combat the crime as well as advances on the technology front.
Also, the launch of the GOtv is supposed to help penetrate the mass market, offering a competitively-priced package. But the fight against piracy is still a long way.
“The surprising thing is that we still have consumers coming in to pay the Sh1,000 at our shops for the pirated connections,” Mr Muchira said.