AMC Moves to Fight Pirated Leaks of ‘Walking Dead,’ Other Original Series

Programmer deploys Civolution's NexGuard watermarks to track source of illegal copies

AMC Networks has adopted new technology aimed at preventing shows like “The Walking Dead” from being consumed by hordes of Internet pirates before they air on TV.

The cable programmer is embedding digital watermarks into episodes of original shows like “Walking Dead,” “Better Call Saul” and “Humans” at its New York production and distribution facilities, using a system from Civolution’s NexGuard. Now, if AMC content turns up on piracy sites, those watermarks will let the company trace the source of the copies.

The new system doesn’t actually prevent video content from being illegally copied and shared online. Instead, AMC is betting the watermarks will reduce the chance that shows will be leaked from international distributors and their subcontractors, who perform post-production services like in-language dubbing on episodes — by being able to pinpoint which partner was responsible.

“It is paramount for us to protect our assets when they are at their most valuable,” Steve Pontillo, AMC’s chief technology officer, said in a prepared statement. “This enhanced content security is a powerful deterrent against piracy and protects our revenue and that of our distribution partners.”

That’s more critical than ever, as AMC’s original series are distributed in some 120 countries, and in many cases the shows air the same day as in the U.S. The programmer has deployed the NexGuard system as software plug-ins for its transcoder farms.

The system could mitigate pre-broadcast leaks, which have plagued networks in the past. Nevertheless, pirates are sure to continue pilfering shows from AMC and other networks once they’ve aired. AMC’s zombie thriller “Walking Dead” is consistently among the most-pirated TV shows.

NexGuard’s watermarks also can be dynamically assigned to set-top boxes or sessions, to let content owners trace piracy to individual consumers. For example, 20th Century Fox and Chinese streaming service iQiyi are using the NexGuard watermarks integrated with Intertrust Technologies’ digital rights management service for studio’s early-release VOD titles in the market. But it’s a logistical challenge for cable networks to do the same thing, because it would require them to deploy watermark-embedding systems with each pay-TV provider affiliate.

Civolution says all major Hollywood studios and about a dozen TV programmers worldwide use the NexGuard system.

Civolution was formed in October 2008 as a spinoff of Royal Philips Electronics. The following year, Civolution acquired Thomson’s content-watermarking business. The NexGuard business has fewer than 100 employees and has its headquarters in Rennes, France.

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  1. David S. says:

    I have AMC, but really prefer to download TWD after it airs to watch because if you watch it on TV you get tons of commercials and interruptions. When it comes down to it I just want to watch the show back when I was a kid I remember commercials half way through and at the start and end of a show. Now you get 3 – 5 minutes every 7-9 minutes a show is on at the very least. Downloading is much better – if anything let us watch the commercials before we get the download link so we can just enjoy the show straight through.

  2. Daryl Benal says:

    I’ve never seen or heard of a walking dead epsiode floating around pre-air. Sounds more like an excuse to track then after they air and to try shut them down at that point.

  3. cuck wade says:

    absolute waste of time its not going to stop them from just removing the watermark or covering it up just accept its going to happen and keep a closer eye on the staff that handles the footage

  4. Paul says:

    The WATERMARKS will do nothing to stop Piracy. All the pirate has to do is run the episode through a video filter and blur the watermark so it is not visible….Are the people at AMC hiring? Cause I could definitely use a job as a “consultant”, and I could actually educate on works when it comes to stopping piracy.

  5. Pretty much means nothing. How often are episodes given to the media before they air? Maybe the first episode of the season.

  6. BobaFett says:

    Ugh. Why is it that companies still don’t get it!? Put your show online and get ALLLLLLL of the revenue. The first company to do it with a HUGELY popular show is going to become the first truly next generation media company. Netflix is becoming that because they are smart. Netflix had a chance and could’ve become just another channel on your TV, but they realized that by by JUST being online, and streaming original shows allows them to get every cent of the revenue. I also predict that product placement is going to come to Netflix very soon. I wonder if advertising will come after that.

    One thing is for sure: the cable TV generation is coming to an end.

    • cuck wade says:

      someone would just rip all the episodes from netflix using a game console and upload it to a media share site soon after they already do that anyway that’s why netflix isn’t doing all that well

    • Joe F says:

      You’re trying to have it both ways here. Someone has got to put up the money to make very expensive shows like The Walking Dead, and the Netflix model isn’t enough money to finance shows that are so expensive. Netflix does have some great shows, but the budgets it allows for don’t work for every show concept. And if every network tried to charge a monthly fee, then it really adds up for the consumer.

      • L32 says:

        You win for least factual post. The Walking Dead is not an expensive production. Netflix has shows with considerably higher production and cast costs. Walking Dead is daytime television level actors and low scale actors for the UK who notoriously underpaid. compare that to House of Cards with A list actors.

  7. sipapate says:

    To be honest, the whole issue of broadcast/screening rights is what’s causing piracy, if someone in America is paying to watch it, why shouldn’t someone in Singapore or South Africa be able to pay to watch it at the same time as the person in America, If I can’t pay to watch it, I’ll just hop on over to those sites that offer HD Downloads of episodes & voila! in just a few minutes I’m watching it, the negative side is those guys that download & then sell them on the street.

    • cuck wade says:

      exactly if they would wake up and realize the solutions to the piracy issues is the reason why piracy is an everyday thing now maybe they would do alot better making shows a 1 channel exclusive thing is a deal breaker for alot of people that just want to watch the shows and the fact that some countrys (with the majority of the fans) cant even get them due to the level of gore in the show its kind of stupid to shoot yourself in the foot but it happens its the big reason why ubisoft took a huge decline in retail sales their own way of anti piracy DRM caused alot to just download the pirated versions reagon restrictions are a huge reason why people pirate movies who otherwise couldnt either afford to watch it or even be able to in the first place (the number of just purely cheep people downloading free stuff isnt as big as the number of people irritated with things like this being done) dont restrict dont fight give people a legitimate reason to pay extra and dont force it if there was less restrictions there would be no reason for piracy in the first place after all pirates always gave authority the finger when it pushed back online pirates do the same

  8. Mike M says:

    I’m confused. Piracy – that’s a form of theft isn’t it? But AMC fully supports theft – they’ve been doing it to Darabont for years. Karma is a b!tch

  9. t says:

    They really need an online service like HBO. Love being able to just watch Game of Thrones that night on the app on apple tv. Would love the same for TWD and BCS. Once that happens, cord cut.

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