DStv’s big fight in South Africa

MultiChoice says fighting piracy of its DStv channels is an ongoing battle that presents multifaceted challenges. It previously said illegal streams were a bigger threat than competition from rival services like Netflix.

One of the biggest problems is users watching pirated sports streams online. Supersport is DStv’s most valuable asset, but it is increasingly available online.

Many South Africans might not know that accessing popular DStv channels like Supersport through means other than its satellite or DStv Stream services is illegal.

Several illegal IPTV services offer access to DStv channels. These services are advertised by several Facebook users in large South African community groups — including Pretoria’s Eks van die Ooste.

Among the popular options is VIP Box TV, which can be accessed with a modified Android TV box. It is available for a once-off payment of over R1,000 or monthly payments of a few hundred rand.

People found guilty of Internet piracy in South Africa for the first time face fines of up to R5,000 or three years’ jail time. Repeat offenders could be fined R10,000 or jailed for five years.

Many examples of legal action against pirates

While it could not provide a specific response to MyBroadband’s queries about the impact of piracy on its business due to being in a closed period, MultiChoice said it employed a “comprehensive” approach to combat illegal streaming.

That includes combining technological measures, collaborating with law enforcement, and legal actions against infringing entities.

There are many examples of DStv pirates being punished by the law for their crimes in South Africa.

In November 2022, Bellville Specialised Commercial Crime Court sentenced Capetonian Jordan Mott to seven years in jail for infringing MultiChoice’s copyright by selling access to pirated DStv content.

Mott was arrested in October 2020 by detectives of the Western Cape’s provincial commercial crime unit, after an investigation found he was selling modified Android TV boxes which could stream copyrighted content.

This included MultiChoice-owned content typically only available on paid-for DStv bouquets.

A week later, UK citizen Lee Whaley was sentenced to five years by the same court for a similar offence.

Both Mott and Whaley’s sentences were wholly suspended on the condition that they not be found guilty of the same offence again. However, they also had to pay respective fines of R60,000 and R120,000.

In October 2023, another DStv pirate — Pieter Lombard — received a wholly suspended five-year jail sentence after 12 illegal streaming devices were found in his possession. He had to pay a fine of R24,000.

Limiting concurrent streams

One of the company’s drastic measures to combat piracy was when it started limiting the number of concurrent streams paying customers could use to just one in early 2022.

Following backlash from customers, it introduced the ability to pay extra for additional streams. However, this has been limited to mobile devices only.

MultiChoice previously said it was working on a proximity control feature that would detect whether a device streaming its channels is being used in the same household as the primary account.

The company started testing a “Home Base” feature in mid-2023.

This allows accountholders to set the primary location from where they access the service, presumably allowing more than one nearby device to stream DStv content concurrently.

MultiChoice also formed the Partners Against Piracy (PAP) organisation to collaborate with other companies on anti-piracy efforts within the industry.

A crucial component of PAP’s approach is to educate the public about the risks and consequences of using pirated services to deter unlawful content consumption.

It is interesting to note that MultiChoice makes money from combatting pirates through its wholly-owned subsidiary Irdeto, a company that sells digital rights management (DRM) software.

One of Irdeto’s most well-known DRM products is Denuvo, an anti-cheat SDK solution that has been used by many well-known game publishers, digital game launchers, and app stores.

These include the Apple App Store, Epic Games, Google Play Store, Microsoft Store, and Steam.

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DStv’s big fight in South Africa