back to article TV piracy ring walks the plank after Euro cops launch 14 raids and shutter 11 data centres

A taskforce led by Spanish cops has dealt TV piracy a heavy blow after shuttering a network of illegal sports streaming sites operating across Spain, the UK, Denmark, Latvia, the Netherlands and Cyprus. Police arrested five suspects and identified 11 ramshackle data centres that were used to provide access to more than 800 …

  1. tiggity Silver badge

    whack a mole

    With how eye wateringly expensive it is to subscribe to Sky sports in UK (especially if doing it as a business like a pub), it's no surprise there are crims cashing in by offering a cheaper alternative.

    There are 3 main reasons for piracy / going to a dubious content provider that you assume probably are of parrot on shoulder persuasion.

    1. Content not available in your country

    2. It is available but the price being asked is ludicrously high

    3. Providers make viewing the content massively inconvenient (e.g. cannot save to watch it offline- can only watch if connected to internet, fat lot of use on long distance UK train journeys where no signal so much of the time)

    If content providers stop ripping off customers & make offline viewing more viable then watch piracy fall.

    .. yes I know offline viewing not relevant for live sports, but applies to other "non live" content

    1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      Re: whack a mole

      4. For sports like Football you need to subscribe to at least 3 different services to view matches for the team you support.

      I'm glad I don't tend to follow football anymore as my father has BT Sports, Sky Sports, apparently Amazon from next season?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: whack a mole

        F1 is the same, committing suicide behind payTV that costs over £400 a year to watch.

    2. Warm Braw Silver badge

      Re: whack a mole

      how eye wateringly expensive it is to subscribe to Sky sports

      It's eye-wateringly expensive because they know you're not going to cancel your subscription however much you complain. At least Sky have worked out how to make a profit on the eye-watering sums, which is more that can be said for a lot of the football entertainment businesses that receive the bulk of the money.

      1. cat_mara

        Re: whack a mole

        It's eye-wateringly expensive because they know you're not going to cancel your subscription

        Very much so. My sister complains bitterly about this because she knows my football-addicted nephews would go bananas if she chucked out the Sky box, even though Sky Sports is about the last thing they're subscribed to at this point (though they're getting to an age now where she may be like, "you want it, you pay for it")

        It's not just Sky either, mind, who are gouging pricks. I remember back in the days of the Celtic Tiger, the base cable package offered by NTL came with a sports channel (EuroSports, maybe? I am a sports-ignorant) that showed footy matches from one of the African leagues, presumably because they could pick them up on the cheap. Once people realised the standard of football was quite high, they became quite popular-- and that you were getting them anyway at no extra cost didn't hurt either. Also, there were lots of African families working in Ireland at the time because of the Celtic Tiger... anyway, once NTL realised they were actually popular, they vanished of the base package in short order and you had to pay extra for them. Miserable hoors.

        1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

          Re: whack a mole

          Probably a bit late but NowTV with Sky Sports often is about half the price of Sky Sports on a proper Sky box. Quality of picture doesnt feel as good but for the money saved should be barable.

    3. JoMe

      Re: whack a mole

      I don't know what idiot would down vote you, since what you're saying is not only correct, but is the same thing we've all said for decades. Instead of waking up and realizing the market is changing, the law sides with them here despite the fact that they actually have not lost anything. Please go ahead and argue digital rights here if you dare. Netflix, Hulu, etc. are a good example of how reasonably effective you can secure content while not screwing your customer base over.

      Instead of competing better, they went to daddy to fix the symptoms; instead of introspectively understanding what went wrong, they covered it up at the public's expense. That is bollocks.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: whack a mole

      One of the basic parts of the problem not mentioned is the money the sports teams and leagues charge TV netwroks for coverage. Massive sums change hands.

      1. tin 2

        Re: whack a mole

        The sports teams and leagues charge TV networks massive amounts for coverage only because the TV networks started offering, and figuring out even more outlandish ways of offering, said teams and leagues massive amounts. Sky is chief in this.

        The teams and leagues aren't exactly going to say no to a geezer on their doorstep saying if you go with us we can line all your pockets with vast wads of cash. The money men pile in, and now you have what you have today. The only way to stop it is to vote with your feet for a while, or stream and hope that the "subscribers" are considered so small fry to not be bothered pursuing.

        1. LDS Silver badge

          Re: whack a mole

          It's just a business based on stupidity. Teams pay large sums to people only able to kick a ball because there is a huge market of people buying expensive tickets while oinly able to drink a beet while watching people kicking a ball. TV pays large sums because there is a huge market of people who are only able drink a beer while watching people kicking a ball on TV. Crooks know that some people will look for a cheaper way to watch people kicking a ball while drinking a beer.

          Some players, some teams, some crooks, and TVs earn a lot on money from stupid people.

          It's perfectly useless people complain how much it does cost - if you complain, it's because you're addicted to it and can't live without watching people kicking a ball, otherwise you would just look at the price, think it's too expensive, and move on - it there were less stupid people the system will crumble and prices will go down. The idea that "circenses" should be given away from free to the plebs looks a lot like lower Roman Empire... or "1984".

          1. Lee D Silver badge

            Re: whack a mole

            You forgot the other pay-per-view sport where you just watch someone getting beaten up in a slightly more restrictive manner than a street fight.

            Which often cost ridiculous amounts, and may literally only last a few minutes.

            I can't stand sports, but I wouldn't watch cricket either (too long), but 90 minutes seems... the right order of magnitude but still too long.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: whack a mole

      Option 1 here: where I live is so uncivilised, they don't care about cricket so it's impossible to see on TV, even in cable TV packages. That could not be allowed to stand.

    6. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: whack a mole

      I learned years ago - if the price isn't something I'm willing to pay, I'll find something else to watch.

      I'm not a sports fan at all, but I apply it to all the things I'm passionate about. I will literally just stop watching/buying/collecting whatever it is when they start taking the piss.

      Sure, I "suffer", but there's other stuff out there to do, and they are at the end of the day a luxury. Purchasing them blindly is only encouraging them to continue screwing you over. I'd honestly rather wean myself off the habit, do something else, and give money to people/services who are being reasonable.

      I know of people who don't actually watch much sport at all who are still paying £120+ per month for their TV services. I can't justify that, not on top of the prices of things like the TV itself, the Internet connection to make it work, etc.

      There comes a time when you just have to say "No, that's fine, I'll do without" and spend your money on something better.

      My TV consists of a second-hand projector, a Raspberry Pi, and a DVB hat on it. Total cost: £60 (the projector was a throwaway). With a £20/month Internet connection that means I can watch and record all the normal channels, timeshift, and stream live and recorded TV remotely over 4G and the ongoing cost is nothing more than I'm already paying for mobile phone/Internet (which is a pittance, really, because I got right away from fixed line broadband because of the same problem - £20 for the Internet, £18.99 rental for the phone, £120 install costs, etc. etc. etc.).

      Now given that this time last year I had TVPlayer as my primary TV, with Netflix and Amazon Prime for other content, I literally cut them off... I paid £30 for a YEAR of TVPlayer. And it never worked reliably, it constantly logged me out (usually at a two hour cutoff from login, right in the middle of your program), and half the channels either were unavailable (e.g. blocked when they were showing a movie) or were actually for Ireland (all kinds of Irish adverts with Euro prices). When that year's deal ended and they wanted a regular monthly payment, it was cheaper to build the RPi.

      Netflix I got on a similar deal. Tried it out, watched quite a few things on it. Well... I did... until I "caught up" with all the programs that everyone was crowing about. Then there was nothing on there but old cruft, and the same movies repeated over and over in my recommendations list (even after trying to find new things by doing everything I could think of). I cancelled it when I realised that for 3 months I hadn't used it at all.

      But I out-TV-Playered TVPlayer with a RPi because of content restrictions and pathetic implementation. Netflix and Prime were just a cycle of the same dross after a while (but I kept Prime for other benefits, so it's a nice diversion that doesn't cost me extra). I don't use iPlayer unless I actually missed a program through forgetfulness because it's just a pain to integrate into the TV (even with Chromecast, RPi, Kodi, etc.)

      The TV and movie industry dictated how I could watch their content. So I implemented a low-cost niche usage for myself and did other things instead, legally. To me, the alternative if that goes south is to not watch them, not watch illegally. But I can understand why others make a different decision.

      When a guy in Denmark with a bunch of DVB-S/DVB-T cards and one subscription can distribute your content worldwide cheaper, more reliably, more easily, more searchably, to more people, and show all the stuff that you don't than the actual broadcast networks can... you have a problem with your business model that isn't going to go away.

      Regional restrictions are fake. Not being able to show content that you're BROADCASTING FOR FREE ON TV at the same time, that's fake. Not having your archives that are full of material I might want to watch, online, on demand, so I can buy/watch that material and literally pay all the rightsholders necessary, that's fake (congratulations Channel 4 for just putting your archives on YouTube all that long time ago). Putting some events on premium subscriptions and then padding them with dross for the other 23 hours of the day, that's fake.

      While you're being fake, you're pushing me and others away to alternatives. Which include the guys in the article as well as "just not caring". We're in an information age. I can find content I'll enjoy online, legally, somewhere. It may not be the Game of Thrones that everyone in the office talks about, but such things are short-lived anyway. You are easily replaceable.

      The irony of watching New Amsterdam on Prime because I saw an Amazon advert on TV for it.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: whack a mole

      "cannot save to watch it offline"

      I never thought I'd see the day they finally caved.

      Times have changed since the war on home recording.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    "Don't buy a Ferrari"

    I'd have thought that was the first lesson taught in the module Getting Away With It during the first term of Criminal College.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: "Don't buy a Ferrari"

      Actually you do buy a Ferrari... for the guy who used a weak password on his wifi router and has all sorts of incriminating evidence pointing at his IP address.

    2. Velv Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: "Don't buy a Ferrari"

      Don’t buy anything expensive is the lesson.

      Houses, cars, yachts, etc are all assets that can be seized. Rented items however are not, and there’s some pretty nice properties on the rental market.

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: "Don't buy a Ferrari"

        Buy houses in other countries in an untraceable manner (or at least as close as you can come) Even if they find some of them, they won't find them all, then you have somewhere to live when you get out of prison :)

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm sure they will get an appropriate "corporate" sentence unlike others that commit more serious crimes against actual people.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the criminal empire earned at least €8m

    staggering amount indeed. And this will will duly morph into "nearly €1BN lost to content providers!" :)

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: the criminal empire earned at least €8m

      @AC 'the criminal empire earned at least €8m '

      Well, of course, don'tcha know, the crims were so successful because..... They were CHEAPER.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: the criminal empire earned at least €8m

        "They were CHEAPER."

        Wee, to be fair, that's a bit of a "no shit, Sherlock" statement. Apart from not having to pay for the content, they also don't need to bother with secure networks to keep the hackers out since they aren't losing much if a few hackers "steal" the content when their paying customers are the pubs and clubs who won't bother trying to steal access when they are already.

  5. Nunyabiznes

    Expensiv

    Of course watching sports is expensive. Just look at what you have to pay for:

    Talent - annual contracts in the 8 digit range for multiple players

    Stadiums - Billion $ spends are common

    Front office - lots of fat there including the team owner and president, etc.

    Advertising, etc.

    Until we quit watching it will keep going up. NASCAR is a good study. They overplayed their hand and now are contracting back to their early 90s ticket sales.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Expensiv

      Advertising? Isn't selling that supposed to be an income rather than a cost?

      1. tin 2

        Re: Expensiv

        advertising the sport to tell people to come and watch it :)

        1. A.P. Veening

          Re: advertising

          Whoosh!

    2. Nolveys Silver badge

      Re: Expensiv

      Stadiums - Billion $ spends are common

      Usually tax payers get to pay that bill.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: Stadiums - Billion $ spends are common

        Usually tax payers get to pay that bill.

        Tell me about it. Our State premier sold our Land & Property Information dept for $2Bn and spent it on putting comfy cushions on the seats at Parramatta Stadium.

  6. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

    Pretty Boy Floyd

    as sung by Joan Baez, as remembered by moi:

    "... As through this world I've traveled, I've seen lots of funny men

    Some will rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.

    As through this world you travel, as through this world you roam

    You'll never see a video pirate drive a family from their home."

    Obscure cultural reference: fountain pen is an ancient form of EULA, amongst other possibilities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pretty Boy Floyd

      Fountain pen is a reference to a contract.

      People have been screwing over others through contracts for thousands of years.

  7. Oneman2Many

    Be interesting to know how much Amazon paid for 20 games.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You do realise "shuttering" is not a real word right? Just leave off the "tering" and you will be far more credible.

    1. Nolveys Silver badge
      Headmaster

      M'dog 'us barkin'in d'yard so I shut'erin.

    2. Suricou Raven

      Any noun can be verbed, including that one.

    3. Monty Cantsin

      shuttering...

      Maybe they surrounded the data centres in a wooden mold and poured concrete into it?

  9. The Nazz Silver badge

    An anecdote

    Few years back, (2015? too lazy/busy to check) was in Tenerife holiday apartments when the Rugby World Cup final was on, Australia v New Zealand.

    Asked the receptionist (fortunately her English was far, far superior to my pidgin Spanish) what Channel number was Sky?

    Got to the room, tuned in, fuzzy scrambled screechy screen. Pressed forward channel a few times and stumbled upon a German TV (surprisingly?) showing the game, albeit with a German langauge commentary (unsurprisingly). This situation actually led to a vastly enhanced viewing experience. Some sound is better than absolute silence, that is hard work, but not understanding 99% ( the occasional technical term aside) of the commentary made it easy to mentally block out and concentrate on the play.

    Later i asked the receptionist what was going on, the reason for this. Sky demanded several £1000's to allow the broadcast to be screened in the rooms, the German TV station zilch.

    YMMV

    1. tin 2

      Re: An anecdote

      Yeah for another example for years you could watch Eurosport UK which required a subscription to Sky, or Eurosport Germany in the clear. However Sky now have their teeth in that market too :(

    2. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: An anecdote

      Dual LNB from Ebay for a tenner, gets you much free stuff without any suggestion that you are not legal.

  10. MJI Silver badge

    Pay to watch sports

    Here goes.

    Given up on F1 totally, no loss to me, more time to do other things.

    I can only name one England cricketer and that is because he is local and discussed on the radio.

    Football as a sport is small team, the big ones are an industry now, how can a big pile of foreigners with a foreign manager represent your locality? They don't hence an industry.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pay to watch sports

      I used to watch some of the F1 races when they were all shown on terrestial TV. Never had time to watch all of them, especially considering the time differences and the fact that sometimes I actually venture into the outside world.

      Then half of them were on Sky only. Ok, I can still watch some of them on terrestrial. No biggie.

      Now they are only on Sky, and I can't watch any of them without paying an eye-watering sum for the special F1 channel.

      So I downloaded Kodi onto my Firestick and stream the F1 channel instead.

      Illegal? Sure. But I'm not signing up a long, expensive contract to watch maybe 3 or 4 races per year. Give me a £5 per race option on NowTV instead and I'll happily pay. Until then, sorry, I'm doing it the dodgy way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Pay to watch sports

        See? You're still part of the problem. You keep tell them there are people who *need* to watch it, so they can keep on trying to screw them. They just need to find a way to kill illegal streams. What they fear most is people flocking away. NFL was very worried when its audience decreased.

        Here US football was broadcasted by Sky. Last year, just before the beginning of the season, they handed it off to Dazn. We have Sky because there are family member who like to watch movies, tennis, etc. (we don't have the football channel, though, even if they keep on trying selling it to us despite years of "we don't give a damn about football").

        But I wasn't going to buy another subscription just for that. I can live without watching any match - more time to do something else, so I totally ignored it - and no dodgy way. The day Sky won't offer any longer an acceptable price/offer ratio, we'll stop subscribing to it - watching TV is not our only pastime. But I agree with you they should offer single events - because almost nobody is going to subscribe to multiple providers.

        Anyway dedicated channels may be needed. Generic TV is ruining many sports as they have to cope with viewer with the attention span of fishes, moved to watch something only if there is the "star" they are groupie of, and wanting events they can fit into their schedules. There are proposal to kill tennis as it was played in the past 150 years to shorten the matches - but actually creating a different sport for a different type of player.

  11. RedCardinal

    >>...has dealt TV piracy a heavy blow

    >>Police arrested five suspects... in the largest operation of its kind in Europe

    Lol yeah must be huge. 5 suspects....

    Pity the cops couldn't pay as much attention to rapists, muggers robbery and knife crime...

    1. I3N
      Trollface

      When El Reg does it ---------->

      Must be a slow weekend ...

  12. James Anderson

    This is big business.

    There is a massive market for foreign TV in Spain, a country with one million or so permanent foreign residents, and, 40 odd million foriegn visitors a year.

    It is not served by any legitimate providers, so thier is a cottage industry in providing hooky TV channels in English, German, Dutch, Norwegian etc.etc.

    In Switzerland I could legally get 10 or so English channels of the local Cable company. In Spain nada. Great country to live in but Spain desperately needs a decent business school to teach them the basics of modern capitalism.

  13. Jon Smit
    Thumb Up

    That's created

    A hole in the market. Give it a month and it'll be filled.

  14. tempemeaty

    ヽ(。_°)ノ

    If everyone would just stop watching TV there wouldn't be any money in pirating it.

    ¯\_(;-_- )_/¯

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They say piracy is fuelling the trade in illegal drugs, yet others claim close to 100% of TV, Movie and Music exec pay is 'invested' in Colombian marching powder. Having associated with many in the Music industry over the past 40+ years I'm more inclined to believe the latter. Me? I've never touched the stuff and use less than half a strip of paracetamol a year.

  16. mix

    Nothing on...

    Reminds me of the Springsteen song about 57 channels...I think when I first heard that song we had four channels in the UK. Most of the time there was very little to watch so we did other stuff instead. The ability for people to lose themselves in entertainment is a much wider issue.

    I tend to watch my team in the pub to support that dying industry, I go to watch a more local team to support grass roots and I pay nothing to Sky/BT anymore because they do not deserve the business. It's their ridiculous bidding wars which have created this monster, they should die with it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not sure why anyone in their right mind

    thinks making Rupert Murdoch even wealthier is a good idea.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pay TV?

    Wow, imagine paying for TV!

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