With the ICC Cricket World Cup officially starting this week, many fans are scouring the web for options to watch the games. Some of them may find less-than-legitimate options online, but chances are, those pirated streams won’t be on any of the big live streaming sites. Willow.tv CEO Vijay Srinivasan said during a phone conversation today that his company is far more concerned about rogue sites that “pop up to make a quick buck” by selling access to pirated streams.
Willow.tv is the exclusive outlet for ICC World Cup matches in the U.S., which the company is broadcasting through its own TV channel on Dish and DirecTV, in addition to its online subscription service. Srinivasan told me that his team has been battling pirate sites ever since it started streaming cricket games online nine years ago, but a lot has changed since then.
Early on, much of the piracy he fought was based on large, U.S.-based live streaming sites. “We were extremely frustrated with these sites,” Srinivasan said. He didn’t single out any company by name, but it’s no secret that many people frequent Justin.tv and Ustream.tv for unlicensed live sports broadcasts. However, all the big players in the live streaming business have since put up measures to combat sports piracy. “They all quickly fell into line,” observed Srinivasan.
A bigger worry for the company now are sites that try to sell services similar to those offered by Willow.tv. Srinivasan said his company has targeted hundreds of rogue sites in recent years, filing a lawsuit in a San Francisco-based federal court last week. That lawsuit specifically targeted close to two dozen sites, as well as ISPs like PRQ, which is run by the Pirate Bay Co-founder Gottfrid Swartholm Warg.
Some of the sites targeted have since ceased operation, but others remain in business, promising access to the tournament for as little as $35. “The sad part is… people will still give them a credit card” even though they know that the sites are illegitimate, said Srinivasan, adding that consumers will often find out the hard way that some sites aren’t equipped to honor their offerings.
As for the big live streaming companies, Srinivasan credits much of their efforts to the fact that other sports leagues have also pressured them to clean up their act. “The good thing was that it wasn’t just us,” he said. However, not everyone feels the live streaming companies are doing enough. The Ultimate Fighting Championship sued Justin.tv in January, alleging that Justin.tv has “turned a blind eye to the massive online piracy occurring on its website.”
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