Premier League matches that are streamed into Australia on pirate UK soccer sites are being funded by major consumer electronics brands, a study has revealed.KLipcorp, acting for the UK, Football Association, claims that the pirate sites reduce the value of live broadcast rights, which in Australia is primarily available via Foxtel.
Peter Lewinton, managing director of KLipcorp said that the rights holders found that blue chip consumer brands which have not been named, were advertising on unlawful commercial sites that offer free live video streams Premier League matches, as well as other sports.
Such operations are an increasing annoyance to rights holders such as the UK Football Association.
“As broadband speeds have improved, the quality of the streams has improved, and [pirate streaming] becomes a viable business,” he said in a press release.
The pirates sign up with advertising networks, which act as middlemen between big brands and millions of usually legitimate small websites.
“The initial responses we’ve had is that these big brands are unaware of where their ads are going,” said Mr Lewinton.
“We’re sure they would be horrified if they realised their marketing spend was being used to sponsor mainstream and blatant piracy.”
The Telegraph newspaper in the UK reported that although it is difficult to assess how much money the unlawful streaming sites are making, the sheer number of them suggests a profitable business.
“Even if you’re doing just a couple of events every day, in the end the advertising revenues can be significant,” Mr Lewinton said.
Meanwhile the costs of setting up and serving unlawful streams are negligible compared to the billions of pounds demanded from legitimate broadcasters. KLipcorp is employed by the FA and Professional Golfers Association to try to shut down pirate websites as they appear online.
The new Digital Economy Act includes provisions that would grant the government powers to force broadband providers to block access to websites that infringe copyright. Last month the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt ordered a review, however, citing concerns about the practicality of the regime.