Figures released by broadcasters, including the BBC and RTE, suggest this year’s World Cup will be viewed online by more people than ever before, while illegal live feeds of games are also appearing on an unprecedented scale.
Kick off for the final is set for 4pm BST on Sunday, 15 July, live coverage in the UK will begin at 3pm on the BBC and 2.55pm on ITV. Both broadcasters will make the feed available through their online platforms, BBC iPlayer and the ITV website.
For the group stages alone, there were almost as many people watching online through the BBC than compared to the whole of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“Alongside the BBC’s world-class TV and Radio coverage, record numbers of fans are using our digital services to follow the World Cup,” the BBC’s chief technology and product officer Matthew Postgate, said in a statement shared with The Independent.
“Millions are watching the big matches on their connected TV at home, while millions more are sneaking a peak on their work laptop or cramming in some games on their commute.”
But despite the games being easy to view online in the UK, people are increasingly looking to pirated feeds to watch the games.
The company detected more than 5,000 unique pirate streams appearing online for the group games, almost half of which came from just four teams. Matches involving Morocco, Portugal and England garnered more than 2,000 illegal streams, however none of these teams remain in the tournament.
Brazil has also been knocked out, having lost in the quarter finals to Belgium. But despite the most popular teams missing out on the World Cup finals, analysts believe it could still break records for illegal live stream figures.
“Even though the most popular teams for pirate streams have exited the tournament, the World Cup final will inevitably attract huge viewer numbers, both legally and illegally,” Rory O’Connor, senior vice president of cyber security services at Irdeto, told The Independent.
“We still expect it to be one of the most pirated events ever and all parties in the value chain will be working hard to disrupt pirate streams and take them down as quickly as possible.”
The abundance of illegal live streams – many of which are easily accessible through search engines like Google – has led to warnings from cyber security experts, who say they pose a risk to fans who watch them.
“Illegal streaming sites are illegal by nature and are riddled with malicious software,” Joep Gommers, CEO at EclecticIQ, recently told The Independent.
“The machines of users visiting those sites are mostly attacked in the form of drive-by-downloads, which means that malware is downloaded when visiting a website.”
Mr Gommers and other experts urge fans seeking to watch the match online to use legal platforms in order to minimise risks.