Premier League warns of illegal streaming crackdown with '10 year prison sentence' threat
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The Premier League is planning a crackdown on the illegal streaming of its matches online ahead of the next auction for its lucrative television rights.
The top flight's previous package was sold for around £5bn over a three-year period, with matches being shown domestically by Sky Sports, TNT Sports and Amazon Prime.
The next cycle will cover matches from 2025 and the bidding for that will re-open later this year.
Ahead of that process, the Premier League has invested in its legal teams and resources, as well as seeking to use private prosecutions to deter the piracy and punish individuals and groups who profit from it.
Recently, five men were sentenced to more than 30 years in prison between them back in May at Chesterfield Crown Court after an illegal streaming operation which offered cheap subscriptions to top flight games was uncovered, and made more than £7m with at least 50,000 customers.
Kevin Plumb, general counsel for the Premier League, has spoken to the Financial Times about the tougher stance the top flight will be taking on piracy and those who illegally stream its matches, which has evolved and become increasingly sophisticated over the years, with pirates now using hijacked smart TV devices known as 'sticks' which are plugged in via a USB port, with an illegal subscription collected that way.
He said: "We don’t underestimate them. They’re really sophisticated now. There is always a challenge with finding people online.
“When I first started doing this, our top line priority would have been pubs. There’s a little bit of that now but . . . piracy has evolved from peer-to-peer streaming to closed network subscriptions.
“You went from the pub to the teenagers in their bedrooms to families watching in their living room, and that then becomes a real priority for us."
Sky won a High Court order earlier this year which means internet service providers are forced to block pirates from streaming illegally, while the Premier League itself has a "Super Block" which saw more than 600,000 illegal live streams removed last season alone.
Regarding the potential punishments which could be in store in the future, Plumb suggested that a prison sentence of around a decade would likely act as a deterrent to this kind of illegal activity.
He said: "Would you want to carry on this sort of business if you’re going to get 10 or 11 years in jail?”