Tough Times Ahead for Satellite TV Pirates
By Wayne Janzen


In addition to constant fear of being raided and arrested by police, those dealing in illegal satellite TV equipment will now have to face more aggressive electronic security hurdles.

Approximately six months ago, DirecTV, the largest satellite TV service provider in the U.S., completed a migration to their P4 smart card technology. The improved security features of this card have, for now, put an end to piracy of the DirecTV system. According to a Merrill Lynch report it was estimated that approximately half of the 500,000 to 750,000 households in Canada that were stealing satellite signals were stealing DirecTV signals. It is believed many of these households have now switched to legal services, either satellite or cable, but a significant number have also migrated to illegal systems capable of stealing EchoStar or Bell Expressview signals.


Nagra, the security vender for both EchoStar and Bell Expressview, has also been able to increase the effectiveness and frequency of their electronic counter measures (ECM’s). Cardless, “Free to Air”, receivers such as the Blackbird, seem to be the most immune to these ECM’s, but are also among the most expensive black market devises, selling for approximately $500 to $800. Nagra has announced that by September 2005, they too will complete a migration to a new level of security that will be much more difficult to compromise. As with the DirecTV P4 card, this will, for a period of time, render all devices that pirate EchoStar and Bell Expressview systems, inoperable.


It is naïve to think the P4 card and the anticipated Nagra security upgrades will not be compromised, but it’s fair to say it is becoming more difficult, less convenient, and a lot more costly to steal satellite signals. For those dealing in this illegal service, this is not good news. The prospects of lower revenues combined with the increased risk of enforcement action should have them thinking it might be a good time to consider a new line of business.


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