The Kodi Box scourge hits Indian pay-TV, SVOD ecosystems

The boxes help in streaming content illegally and have the potential to eat into the subscription revenues of pay TVs and OTTs

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Published: Jun 14, 2021 9:16 AM  | 8 min read
kodi box

A new form of piracy in the form of Kodi boxes has made its way into the Indian market. These boxes, which are similar to set-top boxes (STBs) installed by TV distribution platforms, have the potential to eat into the subscription revenues of not only the pay-TV industry but also the video streaming platforms.

Globally, Kodi boxes have emerged as one of the biggest video piracy threats in recent times. A Kodi box is designed primarily for using the Kodi app, a free and open-source media player software application developed by the non-profit technology consortium XBMC Foundation. However, these boxes are also being used to stream content illegally.

According to industry sources, there are two types of Kodi boxes available in the Indian market. One of the boxes provides pay-TV channels on being connected to a dish antenna. The other is internet-enabled and can stream premium OTT content besides authorised as well unauthorised linear channels, which have banned by the ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB).

These boxes provide premium content to its users by bypassing pay-TV as well as Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD). Users of Kodi boxes get access to a variety of pay-TV as well as OTT content for a yearly payment of as low as Rs 1000-1500. During the pandemic, the yearly price has gone up to Rs 2000.

On being connected to a dish antenna and internet connection, the Kodi box starts receiving digital encrypted signals of pay channels of various broadcasters. The encrypted signals are automatically decoded and decrypted by accessing the decoding keys loaded in a server from the internet.

The Kodi boxes are widely available in the open market as well as on e-commerce platforms. A leading broadcaster hired a private technology company to conduct a forensic audit of these boxes after purchasing them from the open market.

In one case, it was found that these devices use technology developed by an online group based in China. This technology enables receiving of channels by transferring the encrypted pay channels decryption keys over an internet network planted in a scam server, which may be located outside the country.

In another case, it was found that the device is preloaded with pirate android applications like PikaShow, Thop TV, and TV Express, which provide illegal access to live television channels and other entertainment content. PikaShow pirate application permits live streaming content of various broadcasters and has a website of its own –, which has been judicially ordered to be blocked in this country. 

Similarly, Thop TV enables viewing of unauthorised as well as banned channels like Madani TV, Geo TV, Express News, Noor TV, Hadi TV and Peace TV.

OTT and piracy

According to the senior legal executive at a leading TV network, these boxes have always been available outside India but of late they have started coming to India thanks to OTT platforms.

"They are pirating the linear channels as well as the content of OTT players. The OTT platforms have given pirates another door to steal the content. There are two ways to steal content now. One is to reverse engineer the STB of pay-TV distributors like Dish TV or Tata Sky. Content is also being stolen through OTT players. As soon as the content is uploaded on the OTT platform, it starts getting populated on Telegram and going on to various other pirated platforms," the executive said.

Piracy is a constant battle that the content owners have to fight. While content owners invest in technology to secure content, the organised pirates are putting money to reverse engineer that technology. "Piracy can never be eliminated, it can always be contained provided all the stakeholders fight this battle together. It is not an easy battle because nobody is sure about the returns in terms of how many cents we will get back after investing a dollar in litigation," the person quoted above said.

Besides technology-related challenges, the content owners also have their hands tied as internet piracy is a cross border activity. "There are a lot of legal complications. The servers are located in problematic jurisdictions like Kazakhstan and Pakistan. The problem with internet piracy is that anyone can sit anywhere in the world and make the content available in India," the executive noted.

Apart from OTT platforms, the weak encryption technology deployed by certain TV distribution platforms has also allowed piracy to flourish. "On linear, there are multiple problems. One is OTT piracy and the other is weak encryption of pay-TV distributors. Broadcasters and distributors also have their own encryption. Are the distributors putting enough security measures in place? Because they are also getting damaged in the whole value chain," the executive noted.

Lack of legal provisions in new forms of piracy

The content owners across TV and OTT platforms are waking up to the reality of Kodi boxes and the impact that they can have on their subscription revenues. While the anti-piracy teams of TV broadcasting companies are doing their best to tackle this menace, the fact that the present legal framework doesn't have any provision to curb piracy of this nature has made it a daunting task.

"The present legal framework doesn't contain any provision which will allow the government to curb these things. They can't stop the sale of these boxes. Even the boxes that are selling on e-commerce are not banned. Also, when you go to these retailers, they will sell plain vanilla boxes. These boxes are activated by the retailers at the consumers' home," a top lawyer involved in the matter said on condition of anonymity.

He further stated that the police have conducted raids against the sale of these boxes in Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra but they have proved to be ineffective. "It is like a parallel set-up, and they substitute your existing pay-TV service providers or subscribed OTT content. So you don't need to be a subscriber to Tata Sky, Dish TV or a Hathway or for that matter services like Netflix or Disney+ Hotstar. They are gaining popularity," the lawyer said.

While it is difficult to quantify the number of Kodi boxes that are available in the market, thousands of these boxes have been recovered in each of the raids. "These boxes are available not just in the cities but also in villages. It is even more popular in rural areas. The industry is still waking up as they never realised that it is so deep-rooted," the lawyer added.

The Kodi boxes started gaining currency during the lockdown as the broadcasters and distributors were not able to take any action due to lockdown related restrictions. The industry is expected to intensify its action against Kodi boxes as and when the restriction on movements is relaxed by the state and central governments.

The senior legal & regulatory executive at a leading media company said that there is no law or policy or deterrence for piracy on steps that can be taken to control these kinds of boxes which run on an app that shows legit as well as non-legit content.

"There is a whole chain involved, and it is very difficult to reach the main culprits. We can never find out the developers. The most we can do is send a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) notice. Also, IPs can be changed from one server to another in the blink of an eye. This is a crime, but there is no policy to curb this," he stated.

The industry feels that there should be a policy to curb piracy across mediums rather than having a piecemeal approach.

Strengthening security system to tackle piracy

According to the legal executive quoted above, all the big players will have to strengthen their security measures as putting more money in technology will compel the pirates to do the same to reverse engineer the technology. He said that the fight against piracy is going to be a cat and mouse game.

"In certain jurisdictions, the IP laws are strong and the industry both Indian and foreign players need to come together. Kodi boxes offer Indian, international channels, unlicensed as well as banned channels. The encryption technology that you are deploying, the security, the DRM, dynamic token initiation...there are many things that you can do. You can make the stealing very difficult," he stated.

The broadcasters can at best get a John Doe order and try to enforce it through ISPs that these kinds of content are not made available in India. However, the pirates circumvent this by changing their configurations. "About 6 to 7 years ago, we faced the issue of Kodi boxes because it was eating into our international subscription revenue, and we dealt with it. These boxes gained popularity among the Indian diaspora as the Indian pay channels are quite costly in Europe and the US," the executive stated.

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Mark Zuckerberg announces new WhatsApp app for Windows

The app will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 3:25 PM   |   1 min read


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced a new WhatsApp app for Windows, which will enable group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people - all from your desktop.

Making the announceemnt on Facebook, he wrote, “Launching a new WhatsApp desktop app for Windows. Now you can make E2E encrypted video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people.”

“The new Windows desktop app loads faster and is built with an interface familiar to WhatsApp and Windows users. You can host group video calls with up to 8 people and audio calls with up to 32 people. We’ll continue to increase these limits over time so you can always stay connected with friends, family and work colleagues.

Since introducing new multi-device capabilities, we’ve listened to feedback and made improvements including faster device linking and better syncing across devices, as well as new features such as link previews and stickers.

As we continue to increase the number of devices which support WhatsApp, we’ve just introduced a new WhatsApp beta experience for Android tablets. We’re also launching a new, faster app for Mac desktops that is currently in the early stages of beta,” he wrote further.

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MarTech can brilliantly answer the ROI question: Hareesh Tibrewala

The Joint CEO of Mirum India spoke to e4m Editor Naziya Alvi Rahman on a host of questions with respect to the India MarTech Report 2023 that will be unveiled at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit today

By Naziya Alvi Rahman | Mar 23, 2023 2:41 PM   |   1 min read


Hareesh Tibrewala spoke to e4m on a host of issues related to MarTech while delving deep into the India MarTech Report. He started by addressing the roadblocks in the implementation of MarTech in the country.

He also explained the point about MarTech explorers in terms of the sectors, which is invested in this marketing technique.

Tibrewala further spoke about how martech was critical in the role of a marketer and how it could be extremely significant for calculating ROI.

The conversation also veered toward the importance of MarTech in the cookie-less world and the advent of Web3.

Watch the entire conversation here.

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Google opens up access to Bard

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 1:07 PM   |   1 min read


Google has said that it is opening up access to Bard, the ChatGPT competitor, as per media reports.

The tech major will be expanding the access to Bard in more countries and languages.

In a blogpost, Google said that Bard could provide tips or explain several posts.

Google unveiled Bard in February. Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced the soft launch of the AI to "trusted testers". 

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MarTech no longer only about marketing, it needs to drive sales: Mirum India report

The survey for the report shows 88% of respondents expect to increase spending on MarTech over the next 3 years

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 12:43 PM   |   2 min read


Mirum India, a Wunderman Thompson company, has put together a report on the emerging MarTech landscape in India.

The report captures how MarTech solutions are being utilized by brands to effectively communicate their brand messages to the right set of audiences at the right time.

The report highlights that while the global spend on MarTech solutions is around 25% of the total marketing budget, in India, majority organizations spend less than 15%, indicating significant potential for growth. With MarTech spending set to increase across company sizes and sectors, 88% of respondents expect to increase their MarTech spending over the next three years. The report also emphasizes the need for brands and organizations to work with growth partners as preferred by MarTech HEROES, focusing on ROI, and delivering value to the brands.

The report will be unveiled on March 24, 2023, at the e4m Pitch CMO Summit in Mumbai. The summit will see India's most reputed brands and top management coming under one roof to interact and share insights on their game-changing success stories.

Speaking on the report, Hareesh Tibrewala, Joint CEO – Mirum India, said, "The estimated size of the MarTech industry in India is expected to be between $35bn and $50bn by 2026, presenting a sizeable opportunity for businesses. Our latest report highlights how brands are using MarTech solutions to effectively deliver the right brand message to the right customer at the right time, creating fabulous customer experiences and increasing brand loyalty. It is interesting to note that marketers globally spend 25% of their budgets on MarTech solutions, and our report shows the emergence of MarTech EXPLORERS, who are keen to leverage the power of MarTech. This presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to grow and thrive in the ever-evolving digital landscape."

CVL Srinivas, Country Manager – WPP India said, "To succeed in the rapidly evolving tech and data driven world, organizations need good marketing automation tools and diverse skill sets. The report highlights the need for growth partners, preferred by MarTech HEROES, to ensure strong ROI for clients. It brings clarity to the ecosystem and presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to create fantastic customer experiences and increase brand loyalty. At WPP, we've invested heavily in building our tech and data practices, creating a comprehensive ecosystem where value is delivered at every touchpoint."

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Why contextual advertising is making a comeback

As part of e4m TechTalk, Dimpy Yadav, General Manager - Xaxis India, writes contextual advertising is re-emerging for delivering relevant & targeted messages to India’s audiences

By Dimpy Yadav | Mar 23, 2023 9:18 AM   |   4 min read


For years, contextual advertising has taken a back seat in favour of hyper-personalised behavioural targeting. But with tightening regulations and deepening concerns around data privacy, contextual advertising is reasserting its place within India’s marketing ecosystem. And it’s about time too.

Contextual advertisement placement is a proven marketing strategy that dates back to the very origins of the modern industry. In today’s digitised world, this tactic involves showing ads that are directly relevant to the content that a user is viewing or even to the user themselves. They can align contextually with anything from a web page to a geographic location or even the weather.

So why is contextual advertising making a comeback in India in 2023? And how can the nation’s marketers and agencies rise to this new digital challenge?

The right context

It’s been seven years since the Indian government launched its digital India campaign and the nation’s digital economy has grown at a phenomenal rate – 2.4 times faster than the overall economy between 2014 and 2019.

Meanwhile, smartphones have become more affordable, internet infrastructure has expanded, and data has become significantly cheaper. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the adoption of digital interactions has accelerated even further, with food deliveries, telemedicine, and online gaming surging in first-time usage.

For marketers, digital and mobile media have become more accessible and cost-effective mediums. This year, advertising spending on mobile is expected to comprise 78 per cent of India’s total digital media expenditure. According to eMarketer, mobile ad spending in India grew YoY by 35.9 per cent in 2021 and is forecasted to grow by 28.4 per cent in 2022

India’s digital explosion comes amid a tectonic shift away from the third-party data collection that marketers have relied on for years. Consumers have become more cautious about the data they share online while global regulations around data collection like the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have constrained brands’ unfettered access to personal data. In this climate, contextual advertising, which leverages the content of the environment instead of the personal data of its visitors, serves as a privacy-friendly alternative.

A loyal audience

One of the key criticisms of social media over recent years is the potential to miss or misuse key contextual information. Although social media gives brands access to massive audiences, campaigns can easily fall flat if they aren’t executed in just the right context. Even the best creative cannot drive engagement when it appears in an irrelevant or inappropriate environment.

But that dependence on its environment is also one of contextual advertising’s greatest strengths. When utilized in partnership with established publications, it capitalizes on the built-in trust and loyalty that those outlets already enjoy with their audiences. When a receptive audience is combined with the modern capabilities of global scale, digital precision, and algorithmic efficiency, the results can be powerful.

Trust in context

Improvements in targeting capabilities and data analysis have also made it possible for advertisers to target audiences through keywords and topics as well as demographics and interests. Marketers can meanwhile be selective about the types of content they want their ads to run alongside, reserving their investments for audiences that are more likely to take an interest in their products and, therefore, more likely to engage with them. For these reasons, they can feel confident that their content will be well received and their investments will be profitable.

Still, marketing based on context may be a difficult transition for industry leaders who are more familiar and comfortable with behavioural targeting. But it’s hard to argue that the shift towards a contextual mindset will be anything short of necessary and more than likely fruitful. Recent research by Integral Ad Science (IAS) revealed that Indian consumers are more likely to positively receive and remember contextually relevant ads.

Last but not least, contextual advertising will aid marketers in the desired outcome from their campaign. According to a study conducted by IAS and personal computer manufacturer HP, purchase intent was 14 per cent higher among consumers who viewed the in-context ad. In addition, consumers reported a 5 per cent increase in positivity toward the HP brand after seeing an in-context ad

As third-party personal data is becoming less accessible, contextual advertising is growing more sophisticated, giving marketers the power to meet receptive audiences with relevant content. That’s a fundamentally sound path to success that benefits both brands and consumers alike.

Most significantly of all, it has the potential to transform digital media investments into real-world business outcomes. Although the value of premium publishing has always existed, marketers are now able to prove its success with clarity and maximum return on expenditure.

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Brands can be the real winners as gaming firms hit the jackpot with innovative games

Indian gaming firms received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years. This opens up huge opportunities for advertisers

By Kanchan Srivastava | Mar 23, 2023 8:55 AM   |   4 min read


The Indian gaming ecosystem, which boasts of more than 1,100 startups and a 40 crore-strong gaming communities, is thriving like never before.  With their unique offerings such as NFT-based games, fantasy sports, real-money games and cash prizes, home-grown firms have gained popularity across the globe. Over 86 Indian firms have received $1.4 billion investment over the past five years, including two unicorns and seven soonicorns, according to a latest report of the research firm Tracxn. 

Globally, gaming firms received $20.4B funds over the past five years. Of this, India’s share is roughly 6.8%. The United States (42.2%) Chinese (18.3%) firms got the lion’s share. 

Fantasy sports platform MPL ($150 million), which is a unicorn, is among top 10 funded companies globally over the last 2 years. Games24x7, another Unicorn from India, also received $75 million. 

Soonicorns like Zupee ($72 M), WinZO ($65 M), Hike (NFT gaming, $261 M), JetSynthesys, Octro, EloElo and Games2win also bagged the jackpot. Even four early stage startups-Bombay Play, One World Nation, Studio Sirah, Awon Gamez-have also managed to win their first rounds of funding over the last year. 

Even as the cryptocurrency sector across the world tanked, Venture capitalists have shown keen interests in Indian Web3 gaming startups that offer play-to-earn (P2E) entertainment and use crypto coins and NFTs for transactions. Companies with blockchain-based offerings pocketed $620 mn in 2022. Gurugram-based Rario, Bengaluru-based and Delhi-based Hike are among them, Tracxn data says. Hike pivoted from instant messaging to social, gaming, and crypto in 2021 only. 

“Indian gaming companies have been building local products with capabilities to cater to mobile-gaming markets across the world. Gaming as a category has shown itself to be driven by a highly monetizable audience base: one that tends to spend a lot of time on content and online engagement, is likely to be a trend-setter, has the propensity to spend and is often the chief purchase influencer in his/her family and friend circle,” opines Piyush Kumar, Founder & CEO, Rooter - Gaming and Esports Content platform. 

He further noted, “Indian gaming startups have been quick to encash this opportunity. Gaming content platforms like ours are building scalable, tech-driven, revenue-generating models that have garnered interest from marquee global investors.”

According to Rohit Agarwal, Founder & Director, Alpha Zegus,

“Since gaming is an industry that is completely digitally led, there is an almost infinite reserve of digital content that can be converted into NFTs. Also, the gaming audience is more tech-driven and understands the concept of NFT quite easily. These two factors give the NFT-based gaming industry a big advantage.”

Karan Taurani, senior VP of Elara Capital, echoes the sentiments.  “Indian gaming companies have quickly realized the shift of casual gamers towards real-money games. Web3 gaming is a far more sustainable ecosystem for both players and gaming companies and hence there are huge growth opportunities. Investors know this fact.”

Big opportunity for brands 

Such overwhelming investment in the Indian gaming startups opens up a huge opportunity for advertisers. Most of the gamers are young and have a significant purchasing power. 

The Indian online gaming industry is estimated to grow to more than Rs 15,000 crore in 2023, representing a CAGR of nearly 22%,  as per the latest 'India Online Gaming Report' of GroupM. 

“Most of the potential of this platform is still unutilised”, an advertising executive said. He added, “Gaming platforms offer tremendous scope such as in-app advertising, brand integration, rewards and advergaming. Brands can also reach their target audience through communities, e-sport tournaments, team associations, NFTs and influencers.”

The in-game advertising market globally is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7% to reach about US$220 billion by 2027, almost two-fold compared to 2020, according to a report of Research and Markets.


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How Nikhil Gandhi led strategic growth for MX Player

Gandhi, who has stepped down as COO, had three focus areas to drive the platform’s evolution when he took over the role two years back

By exchange4media Staff | Mar 23, 2023 8:24 AM   |   2 min read


Nikhil Gandhi, who stepped down as the Chief Operating Officer of MX Player on Wednesday, has the credit of leading the OTT platform for two years with a specialised business strategy.

Gandhi made a mark with his team leadership, brand management, and strategies for generating revenue through digital content.

When Gandhi joined MX Player from TikTok, he was clear on three key areas for growth. The first was to grow users in India and internationally and expand MX Player’s markets by increasing the watch time on the app. Secondly, he spoke of deploying data in creating strategies for content and the third area was to identify new business areas. Gandhi had spoken about these key focus points in an interview with e4m in May 2022.

With Gandhi at the helm, MX Player emerged as the fastest-growing OTT platform in India. As per’s “State of Mobile Report”, released in January this year, MX Player was India’s most-downloaded OTT app and the third most-downloaded worldwide in 2022.

Industry observers shared that Gandhi had bigger plans. “He has been striving to take the AVOD model to the next level and crack the Bharat market, which largely relies on cost-free entertainment options,” an industry expert said.

He was also instrumental in acquiring the Lionsgate library for international content, industry sources said.

MX Player has over 650 advertisers on its platform, Gandhi had said last December, explaining how his “team goes into smaller markets and gets new advertisers”.

Under his leadership, the platform was able to launch several new initiatives in the last one and a half years. Among them was MX Advantage, the self-serve ad platform targeted at Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). It allows new advertisers to log in and place ads on the platform. MX Player also helps brands design their ads.

Another feature, launched in October 2022, was MX Live. It helped creators monetise content. MX Live works on a D2C model that allows content creators to interact with fans through live sessions. Users can even buy MX coins and MX tokens.

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