Piracy could cripple US DTH

Canada, along with the USA, is losing “billions of dollars” to pay-TV pirates. LA-based consultancy The Carmel Group says piracy “could cripple the industry." Carmel’s senior analyst Jimmy Schaeffler, said DTH piracy is "the equivalent of someone driving up to a gas station, filling up their tank and driving away, and then doing it every month."

The Carmel Group estimates there are some 2m illegal satellite homes in the US and Canada, and the number is growing exponentially. A report in the Toronto Star, a leading Canadian newspaper, cites numerous examples of Canadian citizens who have purchased Canadian free-to-air satellite receivers and then modifying the boxes to pick up signals that are targeting USA viewers.

"The way piracy works in North America is when consumers turn their Free to Air receivers into Free to Air units that steal," says the Carmel Group.

Key to the problem is the built-in USB port in these receivers that enables viewers to easily download the codes that give free access to signals targeting US homes. Echostar, seen as suffering particularly badly from piracy, is suing a California company, Viewtech, alleging that Viewtech is modifying receivers to receive unauthorised channels. Viewtech says the allegations are baseless.

Echostar, as well as Canadian DTH broadcaster ExpressVu, are reportedly upgrading their conditional access systems, and using electronic counter measures, in an attempt to thwart the pirates.