From Serie A in Italy to La Liga in Spain, physical and psychological battles are being fought against piracy services and increasingly those who frequent them. In the UK, where broadcaster Sky reportedly needs to recover at least £5m for every matched aired, following a record-breaking deal with the Premier League, nothing is being left to chance and few measures left off the table.
At least until now, however, Premiership stars themselves haven’t ventured too near to the front lines. Whether that’s by choice or design isn’t clear but a lecture from someone who earns more in a day than many fans do in a year could be even more disastrous than it sounds. Indeed, the fight against piracy effectively firewalls players behind their clubs, which in turn are shielded from controversy by the Premier League.
Despite the Premier League acting as a business venture in which the clubs are the major shareholders, negative publicity rarely travels down the line. In contrast, the Premier League’s latest anti-piracy campaign in Asia appears to have no issue putting the stars right up front.
Different Approach Elsewhere
The Premier League’s ‘Boot Out Piracy’ campaign hopes to reduce piracy in Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Vietnam. In broad terms the campaign mirrors the strategy in the UK and consists of almost identical messaging; fans who watch matches via illegal services expose themselves to risks including malware, ransomware, identity theft, and various other scams.
Where the Asia campaign differs is the participation of Premiership stars including Casemiro (Manchester United), Diogo Jota (Liverpool), Julio Enciso (Brighton & Hove Albion), Abdoulaye Doucouré (Everton), and Taiwo Awoniyi (Nottingham Forest).
For reasons that have probably been researched in depth, putting Premiership players directly in front of fans in Asia appears to carry less risk. Whether that will make much of a difference on the ground in Vietnam remains to be seen.
Piracy Rampant, Despite 100% Availability
The ‘Boot Out Piracy’ campaign is in its third year in Vietnam and still battling against rampant piracy. While local rightsholders are more vocal, the authorities are giving a very good impression of having almost no interest in doing anything about it. Noises are made, laws are passed, but very little seems to get done. That can have consequences for legal content availability but to date, access to Premier League content remains unaffected.
Unlike in the UK, fans in Vietnam enjoy total access to Premier League action. Available from broadcaster K+, the ‘K+ Pack FULL‘ package includes all regular channels, movies and live sports, Premier League included. That means every single match (including on Saturdays), live, for the entire season, in HD.
The price for everything is 175,000 Vietnamese dong or just £5.70 per month. There are cost of living differences to take into account but even then, Saturday games in the UK are effectively priceless, pirate services aside.
Whether Casemiro’s charm can turn the tide is unclear. Even an appearance by Marcus Rashford in previous years couldn’t stop the masses from pirating. That being said, for a subsection of fans, finding the money to gamble while watching Premier League matches on pirate sites doesn’t appear to present as many challenges as finding 175,000 dong to pay the Premier League.
Gambling Crackdown Benefits Premier League
As reported in 2023, ISPs in Vietnam periodically receive instructions from the authorities to block or take other action against various sites. In media reports the platforms are regularly described as copyright-infringing, since they typically offer Premier League, Serie A and La Liga matches without appropriate licensing.
However, most blocked or otherwise sanctioned sites have something else in common; the promotion and provision of direct access to illegal gambling services, something the authorities appear much less willing to tolerate.
It contains over 400 domain names and, according to metadata, was last updated on December 26, 2023. Around 200 of those domains, the new additions, are dated December 2023.
The laws the sites allegedly violate are not part of the record but from our sampling, links to gambling is the common denominator. The Ministry of Information and Communications expects companies in the advertising sector to avoid placement of ads on these platforms, many of which are illicit football streaming platforms or services offering text updates on live matches.
Sticky Rice Domains Head The List
Running in various forms since 2016, the most notorious pirate streaming site brand in Vietnam is ‘Xôi Lạc’ or ‘Sticky Rice’. There are at least six Xôi Lạc domains in the list including a trio occupying the first three slots.
The big question is whether being placed on the list has any effect on a site’s ability to do business. When checking ‘Xôi Lạc’ domains, it becomes immediately obvious that the platform has already taken countermeasures and, effectively, is no longer on the list.
For example, the blacklisted domain xoilacchamtv.org already diverts to a new domain, xoilac12h.com, which is not on the list. The same is true for xoilacchamtv.com, which diverts to the same new domain. As the image below shows, last evening ‘Xôi Lạc’ was offering the usual selection of top-tier football matches from the UK, Italy, Spain and beyond.
As outlined in red, the site reported that live matches were available on Tuesday, but without advertising.
Whether the claimed lack of advertising has anything to do with the new advertising blacklist isn’t clear but in any event, the claim ‘no advertising’ deserves a little more nuance.
The screenshots below show a snapshot of two games illegally broadcast via Xoi Lac domains last evening (red denotes blacklisted domain, green denotes domain diversion). On the left is a game from Serie A and on the right, a match from the Premier League, both supposedly available without advertising.
In the left-hand image the expanded chatbox shows that ads for gambling services are still being promoted as usual but by placing them inside a chatbox, users of the site can plausibly face the blame.
The other striking thing about these sites is what appears to be a significant number of English speakers, suggesting that the platforms are having an effect beyond Vietnam’s borders. That’s a problem also faced by Hollywood, but there are few signs anything can or will be done about that anytime soon, regardless of content.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.