Live Sports Watermarking - Why the Forensic Watermark is a Great Anti-Piracy Solution For Broadcasters

by Intrasonics Team


Concerning his pay-TV empire, Rupert Murdoch famously described it as a battering ram for its success throughout the world.

That proved accurate, with live sports broadcasts being significant drivers for people to ditch traditional paid-for subscription TV.

With the advent of live streaming technology and OTT options for sports viewing like SVOD packages, there has been a shift from the conventional to the modern.

The so-called ‘battering ram’ has not disappeared but has evolved, just as the tech and mediums used to view sports has changed.

Not all the live streaming sports services available these days are run and offered by legitimate sources or even the appropriate owners of the copyright.

With the global demand continuing to increase for streaming services and how easily accessible this content is on various devices, illegitimate OTT live sports services have profited.

Between 2010 and 2018, the drop in pay-tv viewers, particularly among 18 to 34-year-olds, was almost as much as 50%.

A likely significant contributing factor to this alarming statistic is not so much that people are uninterested in live sports, but that they are, as we’ve noted, more interested in streaming services.

When you also consider that during 2017, according to the MUSO Global piracy report, users from around the world made a staggering 300 billion visits to piracy sites online.

To put that number into context – that’s about 10,000 visits every second.

Do Live Sports Need Audio Watermarking if They Already Have a Video Watermark?

As many live sports streams have video watermarking in place, you may wonder why you should invest in audio watermarking as well.

Although it may seem as if your broadcast is fully protected, it’s when you consider the comparisons between audio and video watermarking that you realise a two-pronged approach is the best form of protection.

The Problem With Video Watermarking Without Audio Watermarking

One of the issues with many video watermarks is that it only protects the video and not the audio.

As a result, pirates can still find the video stream from an unprotected territory, for example, in some countries where piracy isn’t taken as seriously.

They could then combine this video with the local audio stream, which is unprotected because there isn’t an audio watermark.

This would render the video watermark useless. By protecting audio, you stop this scenario.

How Does Forensic Watermarking for Live Sports Streams Work?

The method used for forensic watermarking live streams depends on the source.

For Over the Top live streams, via broadband, the stream is passed from its original source through to an encoder/transcoder and then is run through the segment and package stage to the origin server and made available online to users.

For more convention live broadcasts or streams of sports events via satellite, IPTV, DVB, cable or traditional television, the stream is sent from the source through to an encoder/transcoder and then through a Mux switch before it reaches the segment and package stage.

The final part of the process involves distributing the stream to eligible and paying customers.

With the OTT method, watermarking can help track licensee redistribution and make sure there is no illegal activity.

In contrast, for the satellite, IPTV, DVB and cable method, the watermarking can be used to track distributor leakage, to find who was responsible for the illegal distribution of the stream.

Want to see it in action? For more information and a chat about how we can help you with your live sports watermarking, call us on +44 (0)1223 927 070 or contact our team today.


What Are the Options For Encoding a Watermark into a Live Sports Stream?

  • Hardware Encoding (live stream)

Hardware encoding offers the following:

Trusted and reliable real-time hardware – broadcast chains have been using this hardware all around the world.

Complete failover – there is no downtime whatsoever using this form of encoding.

SNMP Monitoring – ongoing health checks on the encoding are available over Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP)

Five Simultaneous Channels - This is a space-efficient form of encoding that can support up to five simultaneous channels for each 1U rack.

  • Software encoding (on-demand)

Software encoding offers the following:

Compatibility with all Commercially-Available Off-The-Shelf products – including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux

Automated – Programmatically pass in configuration

Encoding When Needed – you can benefit from encoding for your stream upon request

Cloud-Compatible and Ready – APIs are available to help with deployment to the cloud

Almost unlimited number of streams possible – light and fast, the stream numbers with software encoding are only affected by the constraints of the hardware used.

Other Benefits and Uses for the Audio Watermark Besides Forensic

  • Measure content popularity - watermarks can also be used to monitor and report the content, in this case, most popular streams. Watermarking can assess the popularity of specific content and the most popular context.
  • Track distributor leakages - as well as detecting that content, like live streams, are being accessed illegally, audio watermarks help trackback to specific distributors responsible for them becoming available illegally.
  • Licensee redistribution - if that wasn’t enough, companies like Intrasonics can use the watermark to track illegal redistribution of licenced subscriber content.
  • Fast and Scalable - With audio watermarking, you benefit from a fast and scalable option low on RAM and CPU usage compared to video watermarking.
  • Invisible Artefacts - It is much easier to hide audio watermarking than it is video watermarking.
  • No Delay During Broadcast - As the encoding is in real-time, audio watermarking can be done without causing any disruption to the live feed.
  • Identification is Not Dependant on the Platform - With audio watermarking, detection is possible without interruption on all platforms, whether OTT, VOD, or live.

How Much Does Content Piracy Cost Broadcasters?

According to the London-based consultancy firm Ovum, the cost of piracy to broadcasters is around 16% of all earnings from digital video and TV.

That is representative of about $37.4 billion in lost revenue.

Why Choose Intrasonics For Live Sports Watermarking? (technical specs, resistances to tampering, inaudibility etc.)

Suppose you are currently looking into the available options for live sports watermarking and wondering why you should invest in our services here in Intrasonics.

In that case, we understand your reservations about trusting just any company to such an essential security aspect.

However, as our watermarking services continue to grow in popularity, we are confident you would gain significant benefits from choosing our services over our competitors.

Some of the most significant advantages you can gain from using our services include:

Watermarking that is independent of specific platforms Our watermarking works with all digital streaming and broadcast platforms.

Compression-resistant Our watermarking is resistant to audio compression.

Inaudible to both humans and animals We only use watermarking signals called “golden ears” approved by the BBC and therefore inaudible to humans and animals.

Highly reliable and noise-tolerant Our watermarking can still be detected even with a lot of background noise and interference. Movement aka the Doppler Effect also doesn’t affect the accuracy of watermark detection.

Match live content perfectly When you are streaming live content, in this example, live sports events, you want watermarking that can accurately and quickly match live content.

Our services can help monitor the popularity and quickly identify where there is illegal use taking place.

Quick and effective identification Intrasonics watermarking detection takes just a few seconds to complete.

If you would like to benefit from a robust and effective watermarking solution for the future streams you are hosting of live sports events, speak to the team here at Intrasonics today.

As well as helping to prevent illegal access, we can also help with the tracking and monitoring of popularity and engagement.

This will help inform improvements to your offerings for paying customers and subscribers.

For more information and a chat about how we can help you with your live sports watermarking, call us on +44 (0)1223 927 070 or contact our team today

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