The dubious honour that Australians hold as the world’s most shameless TV internet pirates has reached a new level of sophistication, according to Australia’s struggling independent TV cable providers.

In the latest blow for broadcasters, global pirate networks have begun live streaming World Cup soccer coverage, stolen directly from five major TV channels.

Industry observers say pirate corporations are now making more from selling stolen TV content than they generate from selling illegal drugs, as Deborah Cornwall reports.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: When pirate broadcasters started live streaming wall to wall World Cup soccer coverage this month, Australian pay-TV operator Tony Ishak could barely believe it.

TONY ISHAK: Look, taking on the World Cup is very brave and stupid at the same time but they’re getting away with it and its scary to think what’s next? Soon it will be NFL, major league baseball. You know, they’ve already reached the top of the mountain. This is the biggest sporting event in the world.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: Tony Ishak is CEO of World TV Media – the largest and most successful foreign language cable service in the country. But like all other operators in this niche market in Australia, the past two years have been a desperate fight for survival, as more than a dozen multibillion dollar pirate TV corporations have set up in direct competition across the globe.

Their business model: to steal TV content by live streaming TV channels, then charging for it through their own pirate subscription services, which now have outlets on every continent on Earth.

TONY ISHAK: It’s happening across the board now so you can watch Big Bang Theory in English on a foreign language TV provider, you can watch Game of Thrones, you can watch the EPL, you can watch Laliga, any sporting event in the world, any drama in the world, you can watch it from your lounge room and no one can do anything about it.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: There are at least nine pirate subscription services operating in Australia charging subscribers as little as $40 a month for up to a 1,000 TV channels.

But for Sydney soccer fanatic Marco Zamponi the big draw at the moment is the five HD channels he can get, dedicated solely to World Cup Soccer coverage. Coverage lifted directly from legitimate operators who pay billions of dollars for the exclusive broadcast rights.

So do you realise this stuff you are watching is actually stolen?

MARCO ZAMPONI: No I think it’s legal. I’m not really convinced that it is stolen because, you know, I pay for it.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: In the past two years there have been repeated attempts to shut down the pirate TV operators in Australia but police eventually abandoned the crackdown largely because the criminal codes have yet to catch up with the digital age.

As a result, the industry estimates, there are now at least half a million Australians signed up to pirate services and growing.

TONY ISHAK: The consumer thinks they are 100 per cent legitimate. They have an ABN number and they’re telling them that they’re legitimate and they just get away with it.

DEBORAH CORNWALL: That is quite breathtaking gall, isn’t it?

TONY ISHAK: It is so brazen that it’s laughable but the problem is


Deborah Cornwall reported this story on Thursday, June 26, 2014