Illegal access to television broadcasts through cardsharing, streaming and IPTV constitutes a serious threat to legal distributors1. Illegal access costs the industry an estimated 4 billion NOK annually in lost revenue. In the Nordic market, criminal operators turn an annual profit of 600 million NOK. Criminal court cases reveal that individuals have accumulated sizeable fortunes through these illegal activities. In other words, this avenue of illegal endeavor is extremely lucrative and carries a low risk of detection and prosecution.

This form of criminal activity has by and large escaped public interest. Positive developments are, however, taking place in the field of law enforcement. Noteworthy initiatives include the establishment of IPR-units (Intellectual Property Rights) in Sweden and Denmark. The IPR-units have already made contributions in several cases with positive results. For the time being, no such task force exists in Norway or Finland.

The main threat to the industry is the high number cardsharing networks, with an estimated 350 000-400 000 customers in the Nordic countries. The greatest challenge is posed by well- established organized networks in Sweden, with upwards of 5000 customers a piece. To impede criminal investigation, the operators behind these networks have established large servers (web hotels) abroad. This trend is also noticeable in the other Nordic countries.

In the foreseeable future, substantial growth is expected in the areas of IPTV and streaming via Set-Top boxes (STB). Currently, investing in the conversion and delivery of high quality content is associated with high costs for illegal operators. The potential revenue loss for legal distributors of IPTV and streaming, is also quite substantial. Both in-house productions and the ability to procure television rights, are under threat.

In the coming years, Nordic Content Protection will be working towards increased safeguarding of digital rights through competence-building and collaboration in both national and international forums. 

This trend report is a collaboration between the analysis and consulting company Procope AS and Nordic Content Protection. Oslo, December 4, 2015.