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As authorities around the world struggle contain one of the largest piracy threats of the last decade, it's unlikely that pirate IPTV services will die out anytime soon. The big question, however, is whether users will become tired of the disruptions and inconvenience and rightsholders will meet them in the middle on price.

During December, on the day world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua was preparing to retain all three of his belts by defeating Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev at Wembley, someone looking to watch the fight cheaply asked which pirate IPTV service would be the best to choose.

From the discussions seen by TF, this person had already subscribed to a package with another provider. However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, after handing over money to that supplier and receiving the login details, all that appeared on the screen was…well…nothing. It was blank, no EPG, and certainly no picture.

Faced with a seller that had suddenly decided to stop responding to support questions by email, the person was directed to a Discord channel. With no experience of Discord, this additional hurdle for an individual with a busy schedule and a small child was an unneeded hassle. Nevertheless, after working out how to get Discord working and getting advice through the channel, support was forthcoming.

Initial advice suggested that his Internet service provider may be blocking the service. This is common in the UK so the customer was advised to sign up to a VPN, which in the vast majority of cases circumvents ISP blocking and allows access to the service. The increasingly frustrated user was provided with instructions to install the VPN on a Amazon Firestick or similar set-top device, but as the owner of straightforward smart TV, didn’t have the suggested hardware.

Reaching a point where he “couldn’t be bothered” to jump through any more hoops, the customer sought out a new IPTV provider, which according to online forums had performed well in the past. However, it transpired this service also required a VPN but was offering a workaround to exploit a VPN provider’s free trial.

Nevertheless, a Firestick or similar was still advised and several hours later, after obtaining one and installing the necessary software, the service was up and running, ready for the fight. As things turned out, everything ran without a hitch but the hoops jumped through to get there were certainly noted.

Messing around for hours on a Saturday in preparation for a 45-minute fight isn’t everyone’s idea of fun. Not to mention that it took not one but two IPTV subscriptions to get the desired result. Add in that the free VPN ‘trick’ no longer works and it’s not hard to see how some people (albeit not all) might be put off by the experience.

Indeed, if we switch around the circumstances a little and sprinkle on some creative license, this doesn’t sound a million miles away from the hoops that some legitimate providers require their customers to jump through in order to watch an event. If we add in all the of the pirate costs, presuming they aren’t to be spread over future viewing experiences, there aren’t many savings either.

Of course, more seasoned IPTV pirates would’ve already had their ducks in a row. They’ll have done all of the research, have a couple of providers to choose from, the necessary hardware already, plus a VPN kicking around that could be put to further use. But for the more casual or one-off type user, none of this represents a particularly streamlined or enjoyable experience.

This state of play is largely due to the disruption activities of copyright holders and the authorities. Where once it was simply a case of visiting a website, signing up, paying and watching, accessing an IPTV service today is a much more complicated affair.

More public services, with a website and the option to pay simply by PayPal, for example, are much rarer. Indeed, it is widely believed that these sellers and resellers are likely to attract negative attention much more quickly, and that certainly isn’t conducive to a long-term business relationship for anyone involved.

On the other hand, those with more secure operational setups, with contact only available through invite-only chat channels and payments accepted only via cryptocurrencies, may prove to be much more reliable and durable. However, these present a whole new set of barriers to entry, ones that are likely to put off novices, casual customers, and/or those with less time on their hands.

With the majority of users falling into these categories, it’s not hard to make the connection between various anti-piracy strategies, enforcement actions, and other disruption activities favored by the police, for example. All of these entities are under no illusions that piracy can be easily stopped. However, with strategies that are designed to disrupt in any number of ways, the aim is to create enough irritation and inconveniences among customers that cause costs to rise and valuable time to be expended.

Somewhere along the way, it’s possible that the pirate business proposition starts to feel less of a bargain. Couple that with reduced prices and more convenience for official offerings and the gap closes further still. None of this may be enough to make pirate IPTV a thing of the past but with competition in the form of disruption and more sensible pricing, the playing field could improve for rightsholders in 2021.

Until the next set of pirate innovations, of course.