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Piracy Television

The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network (nytimes.com) 63

What do you do when your multibillion dollar sports network has been stolen? For the last several days, executives at Qatar's beIN Sports, which functions as the ESPN of the Middle East, have been pondering the same question. For the last several months, live coverage of beIN Sports feed is being broadcast on nearly a dozen beoutQ channels, a bootlegging operation seemingly based in Saudi Arabia, whose roots lie in the bitter political dispute between Qatar and a coalition of countries led by its largest neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. From a report: The coalition countries have subjected Qatar to a punishing blockade over the past year. Those countries last year accused Qatar of supporting terrorism and criticized its relationship with Iran, an ally of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. They enacted an embargo, cut off diplomatic ties and set up the blockade of the energy-rich emirate, closing Qatar's access to many of the region's ports and much of its airspace. Qatar has denied the allegations and has claimed it has assisted the United States in its war on terrorism.

Now, one month before the start of the World Cup, the world's most-watched sporting event and beIN's signature property, the audacious piracy operation is positioned to illicitly deliver the tournament's 64 games to much of the Middle East. Qatar, despite abundant resources, has been powerless to stop it. Decoder boxes embossed with the beoutQ logo have for months been available across Saudi Arabia and are now for sale in other Arab-speaking countries. A one-year subscription costs $100. A Bangladeshi worker reached by phone at Sharif Electronics in Jeddah this week said his shop has been selling the boxes for three months. "Many people buy them," he said.

The Brazen Bootlegging of a Multibillion-Dollar Sports Network

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  • So their content is being re-broadcast, and the advertising therein gets a wider audience. Sounds like a win-win.

    Hardly sounds like theft.

    If this is negatively affecting their bottom line, somehow, then perhaps they need to re-think their business model.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 13, 2018 @10:02PM (#56606136)

      If you read the article it literally says that beoutQ is inserting their own commercial breaks, so no advertisers are getting a wider audience.

      Their business model is not the issue - another company is conspiring with a foreign government to block their signals, drastically cutting their subscriber base. Then, to add insult to injury, they are re-transmitting the exact same content, without paying for it, to the subscribers they are no longer allowed to sell to AND inserting their own advertising.

      The last paragraph of the article says it best “They’ve created a brand without any acquisitions.”

      • by Anonymous Coward

        this is Hilariously simple to stop. buy a box, send a signal out to each subscriber one at a time (or ten, or fifty) identifying the specific subscriber in a concealed manner, once you find out what they're doing to steal the signal broadcast donkey porn instead, but only during the big games.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          once you find out what they're doing to steal the signal broadcast donkey porn instead, but only during the big games.

          No, they want to stop people from watching.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          maybe some deepfakes with the crown prince? That would be SO hilarious!

        • by robbak ( 775424 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:09AM (#56606594) Homepage
          One issue is that in this area of the world, pay TV is delivered by satellite. Everyone in a region receives the same encrypted broadcast, and it is decrypted by secret keys inside the decoder box. If you have the money, separating that decryption module and capturing the decrypted video stream is child's play. Even where it is delivered by cable, the same signal is delivered, encrypted, to many customers, so this sort of work could determine which suburb they are capturing in - which isn't much use, as they would only capture from one site for a few minutes at a time.

          And then you have to be using a way to mark it that doesn't degrade service for your customers, isn't detectable by your target (or they'll just strip it), and isn't destroyed by re-encoding.

          • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot@w o r f . n et> on Monday May 14, 2018 @04:46AM (#56607098)

            One issue is that in this area of the world, pay TV is delivered by satellite. Everyone in a region receives the same encrypted broadcast, and it is decrypted by secret keys inside the decoder box. If you have the money, separating that decryption module and capturing the decrypted video stream is child's play. Even where it is delivered by cable, the same signal is delivered, encrypted, to many customers, so this sort of work could determine which suburb they are capturing in - which isn't much use, as they would only capture from one site for a few minutes at a time.

            And then you have to be using a way to mark it that doesn't degrade service for your customers, isn't detectable by your target (or they'll just strip it), and isn't destroyed by re-encoding.

            The technology does exist, though. DirecTV and Dish Network have the exact same problems, and still have methods around it, some very creative (and exploding them in the final minutes of the Superbowl so all the pirates get to miss the excitement).

            And cable providers have individually addressable boxes nowadays - you have to "activate" them which basically programs them with the necessary decryption keys. And it's enough so that it's generally a pain in the butt.

            It's even a sport between the pirates and the satellite

      • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @05:18AM (#56607190)

        This problem is actually super easy to solve.

        Insert random overlays that criticize the Saudis and the Saudi royal family.

        Once that happens, the Saudis will censor the bootleg channel themselves. That's it. Problem solved.

        • Right, all they have to do is create a major diplomatic incident during the world's most-watched sports broadcast. Simple.

    • "..perhaps they need to re-think their business model."

      Better known as never opposing an imperialist initiative conceived by the United States. Such are the consequences (at the moment) for a failure to abide.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Now Qatar can point to this, and the Jews will see it as a threat.

    Soon Disney and Comcast will mobilize their legions, Fox, Paramount, and Viacom will not be far behind. And to be honest, MLB, the NFL, and the NBA will all feel threatened.

    That means for once, all races will be united. Even the Canadians.

    Good job, Riyadh, now you shall suffer the wrath of the most vicious monsters to walk the Earth since the Aztecs.

  • Huh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Sunday May 13, 2018 @10:29PM (#56606212)
    So I guess Muhammad never weighted in strongly on signal piracy. I guess it's ok then.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think the following two quotes are very clear on the matter:

      "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth."

      "I'm the most recognized and loved man that ever lived cuz there weren't no satellites when Jesus and Moses were around, so people far away in the villages didn't know about them."

      --Muhammad Ali

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      Well, he was against interest, so there's that.

  • Pirate Saudi's stuff in retaliation.

  • Copied (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Meneth ( 872868 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @01:11AM (#56606602)
    It's not "stolen", it's copied.
  • Not sure what they expect. They're using shit-tier encryption. This doesn't happen on a large scale with Dish and DirecTV anymore because they stepped up their game with encryption.

  • Hm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fencepost ( 107992 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @02:54AM (#56606796) Journal
    If there's no legal distribution of their content within Saudi Arabia, perhaps they should start making sure that most of the content of interest to Saudis also includes strong subversive and anti-government propaganda. After all, it's not like they're transmitting it to Saudi Arabia.
  • grimy arse (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @03:02AM (#56606814) Homepage Journal

    Those countries last year accused Qatar of supporting terrorism

    The words "pot" and "kettle" spring to mind.

  • You broadcast a unique ID to all your viewers and see which one comes up on the stream. Then you kill said viewer (this is the middle east, yes?)

    Did I miss something in this obvious 2-step process?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not so easy. When transmitting via sattelite (like they are), everybody gets the same signal. In theory, you could do a local insert on the STB, but that usually involves updating the firmware -- and they are assuming they are using the same type of device as their legit subs.

    • Yeah, you missed the part about how the satellite broadcast, by definition, is not a per-user signal. It is one signal received by everyone in a certain area.

      So, yeah, you can put a unique ID on your 1 signal, and then you'll be able to find out that someone receiving your 1 signal is the person re-broadcasting it. I'm not sure how that helps you though, you still don't know which of the many people receiving the same signal is the one you're looking for.

      • I don't know? Triangulation? I'm not a fucking sattelite engineer, but clearly these people aren't either.
        • Triangulation? What's that supposed to mean? There aren't 3 satellites where they measure the time that the signals take to reach each customer. It's one satellite blasting out the signal to everyone who wants it. If you take an antenna out and broadcast a signal out, and then later you hear that someone had recorded that signal and is playing it back, you don't know who it was who recorded your blast. It could have been anyone. It's the same situation, the satellite does not send a different signal t

  • Saudi (Score:5, Funny)

    by dehachel12 ( 4766411 ) on Monday May 14, 2018 @06:29AM (#56607296)
    >Those countries last year accused Qatar of supporting terrorism
    That's rich coming from Saudi-Arabia
  • by Anonymous Coward

    For those not familiar with the business model that BeIn uses:

    They sign exclusive rights for the entire Middle East from whatever agency is responsible for broadcasting the World Cup. In just one fell swoop they exclude millions of people that can't afford the $400 subscription from watching the games. What they end up basically doing is confining the games to those with the money for satellite and/or the disposable income to go watch it at restaurants.

    These aren't teenagers that are buying these boxes. Mor

    • For those not familiar with the business model that BeIn uses: They sign exclusive rights for the entire Middle East from whatever agency is responsible for broadcasting the World Cup. In just one fell swoop they exclude millions of people that can't afford the $400 subscription from watching the games.

      Almost. It is the World Cup organizing committee that signs exclusive deals that is excluding viewers. If that committee had not granted exclusive rights to a geographic area, other companies could buy the same feed and sell it cheaper, or for more.

      This is common practice. I figure that a commercial enterprise has a right to charge what it wants for its product; I have a right to not pay that price if I don't like it. It's silly to think that I can tell a content producer that they have to make their conte

  • Oh, right the ones with the "no lower limit" religious exception for marriage....Fuck 'em?

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