Piracy in Sport – Thematic Research

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Sports piracy is costing the industry as much as $28.3 billion a year, highlighting the scale of the issue facing broadcasters on a global level. It has been found that that those who currently illegally stream would be willing to switch to a legal source if one was readily available. To make back some of this money, the sports industry must understand what drives people to use pirated streams in the first place. The issue is not a simple one and involves many different factors.

What are the key technology trends impacting the sports piracy theme?

Streaming/OTT platforms, increase in quality, security, and NFT’s are the key technology trends impacting the sports piracy theme.

Streaming/OTT platforms

A possible solution to combat illegal viewing is to introduce more streaming platforms. Over-the-top (OTT) content has become increasingly popular in recent years, with many younger people gravitating towards these services due to the ease of access and diverse range of offerings on these platforms. Having a universal streaming platform would allow fans from all over the world to be able to closely follow their favorite league, and not be hamstrung by country restrictions or a lack of affordability.

Increase in quality

The last decade has seen a significant increase in sports piracy, due to the advances in technology for streaming. In the early 2000s, watching sports illegally was often a frustrating pursuit due to the often-poor quality and significant number of ads.


Illegal streaming is difficult to prevent due to how easy it is to find a hole in the security systems. Essentially, all it takes is one ineffective content protection mechanism within a cable company’s distribution network or an online platform to make a game accessible to pirates.


The explosion of crypto in the past year has been partially facilitated by several athletes launching their own tokens. Often worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, NFTs are tokens that can supposedly prove sole ownership of a digital item. However, NFT piracy is rife and was aided by the creation of a website that claimed to allow users to download ‘every NFT’ on the Ethereum blockchain in one go.

What are the key industry trends impacting the sports piracy theme?

The industry trends impacting the sports piracy theme are legislation, never-ending growth, social media, password sharing, illegal revenues, COVID-19, and territorial restrictions.


Part of the difficulty in prosecuting pirates is the global nature of sport. This has been especially problematic for the US, which is often unable to deal with illegal streams due to its weak legislation regarding the matter. Attempts to crack down in North America were stalled after a proposed ‘Stop Piracy Online Act’ fell apart following concerns from tech giants.

Never-ending growth

Some have likened the battle against sports piracy as a game of ‘whack-a-mole’. Every time the authorities make some progress on taking down illegal distributors, more spring up in their place. While sports leagues such as the NFL, NBA, NHL, and the Premier League are committed to tackling the problem, it seems incredibly easy to set up replacements in an almost infinite loop.

Social media

The spread of illegal content has been facilitated by social media, with illegal links often being promoted and posted on platforms such as Twitter. As social media sites are inherently designed to share information, pirates on social media can be very difficult to trace. Live streaming on social media is usually encouraged by the platforms themselves but is exceptionally difficult to monitor, so some pirates will live stream directly on these sites.

Password sharing

While considered a much lesser form of piracy, this is an issue that is costing streaming services millions. Many individuals will share their passwords to platforms such as Netflix with their friends, ensuring that multiple users have access while only paying for one account. This means that the platform will miss out on the extra money accrued from these other potential subscribers.

Illegal revenues

While most pirated streams remain free, some illegal streaming providers have begun charging subscriptions fees for their services in an attempt to make money off the situation. There are reportedly thousands of pirated TV services around the globe, with collective revenues estimated to be in the range of ten figures.


The COVID-19 pandemic indirectly led to piracy numbers soaring, particularly in the early stages. With many people stuck at home due to government-enforced lockdowns, they had more spare time to kill and began watching more TV shows and movies illegally.

Territorial restrictions

Some international fans of sports are forced to turn to piracy to watch their favorite sports due to the lack of robust broadcasting infrastructure and a lack of media rights deals in their countries. However, even those in more developed countries are hampered from watching their favorite teams, as many fans are in the US.

Which are the major ways that sporting events generate revenues?

The major ways that sporting events generate revenues include fan attendance, TV rights, TV subscriptions, and advertising.

Piracy in sports market, by revenue generation ways

Piracy in sports market, by revenue generation ways

For more revenue generation ways insight, download a free sample

Which companies are most affected by piracy?

Apple, beIN, Disney, Napster, Netflix, Sky, Spotify, and Warner Bros are some of the major companies affected by piracy.

Piracy in sports market, by major companies

Piracy in sports market, by major companies

To know more about key companies, download a free sample

Market report scope

Key technology trends Streaming/Ott Platforms, Increase in Quality, Security, and NFT’s
Key industry trends Legislation, Never-Ending Growth, Social Media, Password Sharing, Illegal Revenues, COVID-19, and Territorial Restrictions
Major revenue generation ways Fan Attendance, TV Rights, TV Subscriptions, and Advertising
Key companies Apple, beIN, Disney, Napster, Netflix, Sky, Spotify, and Warner Bros


  • This report provides an overview of piracy and how its massive growth has affected the sports industry.
  • The current trends dominating sports piracy as well as the trendsetters leading the industry, and which sports leagues and territories are the most affected.
  • The report provides a look at the potential future for sports piracy, and ways it can be mitigated.
  • An in-depth look at the how the viewership value chain is inherently being detracted from by piracy.

Reasons to Buy

  • For those wanting an in-depth analysis the current landscape of sports piracy, and which aspects of the sports ecosystem have been affected the most.
  • For those wanting a sense of the where viewership in the sports industry is heading, and how piracy is losing the industry significant amounts.
  • GlobalData’s thematic research ecosystem is a single, integrated global research platform that provides an easy-to-use framework for tracking all themes across all companies in all sectors. It has a proven track record of identifying the important themes early, enabling companies to make the right investments ahead of the competition, and secure that all-important competitive advantage.
  • Investors who to want to understand the current issues that piracy are causing the sports industry problems.
  • Industry professionals who are interested to see how significant the growth in sports piracy will be in the next few years.
  • Sports industry workers who want to understand the current factors that are causing an acceleration of growth in piracy.

Premier League
Serie A

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

2. Players

3. Thematic briefing

4. Trends

5. Industry analysis

6. Value chain

7. Companies

8. Further reading

9. Our thematic research methodolgy

10. About GlobalData

11. Contact us

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