How Easy Online Video Piracy May Be Hurting Your Revenues?

How Easy Online Video Piracy May Be Hurting Your Revenues?
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Summary: We present a statistical analysis on prominent use of downloader tools to pirate eLearning video content. Technical solutions to solve this problem and their feasibility of integration are talked about. Revenue loss estimates from online video piracy and price point of secure options are discussed.

Online Video Piracy: How Easy Can It Hurt Your Revenues?

In an ideal world, eLearning students spread the word about your courses, turning them into new customers. However there is a leakage in this system and it’s called online video piracy: Students are also likely to share content via password sharing and video downloading. We will discuss the measures that you can take to protect your content and deter password and video sharing.

Think of this scenario:

  1. You have successfully launched your eLearning course.
  2. You have done storyboarding, narration, and video production to produce quality content.
  3. Your eLearning course is designed to maximize learner engagement.
  4. You have ticked all the boxes needed to ensure quality; created great content and employed a good user design.
  5. You would be relying on conventional marketing channels as well as on word of mouth to do publicity for your course, making your course reach consumers through every avenue.

You have started selling.

However then you find a disconnect between the estimated subscribers that your research suggested, and the actual number of students that start subscribing!

Can there be leakages in your sales process, leading to potential learners accessing content through unauthorized means?

Say customer A has subscribed to your online content and is satisfied sufficiently as to recommend it to her friends - B, C, and D. Customers B, C, and D are therefore your potential customers. However there is the possibility that instead of B, C, and D becoming customers, they access content freely through A through these means:

1. Password Sharing. 

For small groups password sharing is quite common. In the above scenario 1 person can share their password with 3 other people. Assuming a 1:4 ratio of people buying content to people accessing content. This ratio may vary, and depends on numerous factors. In this case you are getting only 25% of your subscribers as paying subscribers, and 75% are freeloaders.

2. Video Downloading. 

Compared to password sharing which is likely to have a potential 75% loss in the scenario mentioned, video downloading causes risk of much greater loss. Your main product offering can be made available to many more potential customers. In this scenario of say 4 course learners, 1 may download your course, share it privately, or worse, make it available online, either through YouTube or through torrent sites. This would create a considerable disincentive for potential students to directly subscribe to your course.

Restrict multiple device logins at a time and limiting the total login time of subscriber can be done for problem 1. There are ready to use WordPress plugins like e-member which helps in this; while for site/apps made in php, asp, java etc. it can be done in development.

Is it possible that even on implementation of best of your member security measures, the videos are being downloaded by your users?

Are you using simple HTML5 streaming or YouTube to publish content? Are these methods secure to deliver premium education content?

The following data shows that typical pirate age is 18-29, these are the young tech savvy population who use free tools, hacks available online to share and pirate content.

  • The idea of this article here is to provide a test to check: Are your streaming videos downloadable?
  • If yes, then how many users across the world might be using such free piracy tools?
  • Is the number good enough to spend your business investment in video security?
  • What are the options to do it yourself or use some other service to prevent maximum piracy? I have seen people coming to me and saying "Our content is on torrent, help us negate this". What measures needs to be taken?

The Number Of Users For Easy Download Piracy Tools

I have mentioned the prominent downloader/plugin/software in the table below. The number of annual or total users is taken from the source website or alexa for an estimate. References to the numbers are given in table.

How Easy Online Video Piracy May Be Hurting Your Revenues

'The reference of the data from Alexa and sites can be checked here.'

Every 4th computer user in the world has potential access to this video download piracy tool. Is it not alarming?

How To Check If Your Content Is Downloadable?

The process to check level of security is straightforward. Search each of these download tools on Google, and where necessary install them. Some of them work on browsers as plugin while some some are downloadable Windows or Mac software, whereas the remaining are webpages that give links to download videos directly. Open your video page and try these tools.

Note that these are some of the easiest off-the-shelf free tools to work with. There are tons of hacks used by student techies to grab content. They are also potentially more dangerous.

What are the options to prevent online video piracy? How easy it is to integrate and are they affordable?

1. DRM Used By Big Media Companies Like Netflix. 

There are high-end companies like Verimatrix in video security. But the ease of integration and the price point is too high for most of eLearning companies in world.

2. RTMPE Or HLS Encrypted. 

These are widely sold in the name of security. There is certain level of encryption involved in them, which prevents certain kind of downloaders from working on them. But these are not full proof secure and certain downloaders like RTMPdump, Video Download Helper can still grab the content. In certain cases like RTMPE provided poor streaming experience at low speed connections owing it to its no future buffer feature.

3. Building In house Encryption Mechanism. 

It is quite difficult and should be done only when you are at scale along with a large development team.

4. Use Someone Like VdoCipher To Encrypt And Watermark Videos. 

This will ensure maximum revenue is generated from your content.

Here is a demo to the common HTML5/HLS downloadable video.

Here is a demo to encrypted non-downloadable secure hosted video.

How Much Money To Invest In Secure Streaming Technologies?

Here is a quick calculator for your estimates:

  • Per course price - X.
  • % of students who might download your content - Estimate it something Z, Lets take 20% is here based on stats we provided earlier. More technical the user base, higher the number.
  • Number of students expected to buy in a year - Y.
  • Revenue lost - X*Y*0.20.
  • Is the secure streaming product priced < X*Y*0.20, Recommended to buy that.

My idea here was to provide a systematic approach to see the value of security for your videos. In certain cases, the course value might be so less, that it does not make sense. While in other cases, value of course might be so large that even release of those videos on torrent or some other site might be huge hit to business.

Things Not To Do In View To Enforce Secure Video Streaming

I have seen some rare companies forcing viewer to install desktop software to allow them to play their courses. This should only be done if you have high confidence that your viewers will not drop off from your site seeing that. So, definitely it should not be done with free video content. With paid content, when user is already sure to use you, it can be practiced.

Also, please ensure that you have a mutli-bitrate player to stream this secure content, which can also deliver good experience at low internet speeds.


For most of eLearning content providers, secure video streaming technology is very necessary to put in place before marketing and selling courses. The choice of technology for secure video streaming depends on the scale of usage, perceived market-value of content, costs involved and the strength of the technology.

Here is the link for a guide to implement and compare technologies for secure video streaming on your online courses.