Anti-piracy push continues as DFL invests in content protection firm

Germany’s DFL has become the latest rights-holder to intensify its efforts to crack down on piracy, signing a wide-ranging agreement with Athletia, the Cologne-based content and rights protection agency, including the purchase of a minority shareholding.

As part of the tie-up, Athletia will carry out the monitoring of international piracy of Bundesliga matches as the league for the first time entrusts a single partner to monitor potential violations in the areas of social media, web and IPTV.

As part of the “ryghts” joint venture, the DFL has acquired a share “in the lower double-digit percentage range.”

The investment is part of the “DFL for Equity” investment strategy that was launched last October and kicked off with the purchase of a 10-per-cent stake in Track160, the Israel-based sports analytics technology start up.

The DFL’s move comes a little over a week after it joined other football rights-holders in jointly decrying the activities of pirate channel beoutQ, calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities for their support in “ending the widespread and flagrant breaches of our intellectual property rights taking place in the country.”

Serie A, one of the other rights-holders to issue the joint statement, also ramped up its anti-piracy activities this week, launching its #StopPiracy campaign.

Founded in 2013, Athletia already works with 80 clubs, leagues and associations in the areas of content, branding, analysis and rights protection. The firm has helped identify social media content violations on behalf of the DFL since 2015.

Christian Seifert, the DFL chief executive, said today: “Holding shares in a company that aims to better protect media rights is a compelling update of our strategy. We want to cover large parts of the media value chain around professional football and also develop services for other sports leagues from that.

“Protection from the illegal distribution of valuable content is a crucial factor in the economic success of a sports organisation and its media partners. For that reason, ryghts has enormous potential for the future.”

Lukas Klumpe, Athletia’s managing director, remarked: “For us, ryghts is the logical expansion of Athletia in two respects. Firstly, the new product fits perfectly into our portfolio of individual services based on proprietary technology; secondly, we are delighted to take our long-standing cooperation with the DFL to a new level and to now develop this topic that is essential for the industry together.”

Under the terms of the co-operation, the ryghts joint venture will enjoy a joint marketing presence with the DFL and benefit from the “existing expertise of the DFL Group in the specialist area and the corresponding cooperation in relation to innovations in the area of anti-piracy.”

In driving forward its own anti-piracy efforts, Lega Serie A has launched its own campaign to raise awareness directly with fans and viewers, while also speeding up IPTV blocking times by internet service providers and hosting. The Italian top tier has also submitted “a request to the authorities to provide for stricter penalties” for offenders.

Luigi de Siervo, chief executive of Lega Serie A, said: “Piracy is one of the biggest problem in Italian football and we are almost at the breaking point of the entertainment industry, including football…

“…Italy, the estimated damage is over €1bn ($1.1bn) a year, with 6,000 jobs being threatened. We are also working with Fifa, Uefa and the main leagues to combat the beoutQ piracy and all pirate IPTV. I’m optimistic that, with everyone’s help, we will be able to reduce piracy by saving our football.”