Kodi-Style IPTV Piracy Generates More Traffic Than Torrents, Which Isn't a Surprise

By Tom Pritchard on at

Torrenting isn't easy. Well it is when you know how to do it, but finding a decent site that hosts decent torrents is always a challenge - particularly in recent years. The rise in dodgy IPTV streams, particularly those from unofficial Kodi add-ons (and similar things) makes piracy a cinch though. So it's hardly a surprise to learn that IPTV streaming generates more internet traffic than torrenting.

It really is rather easy. If you're using a Kodi box, as they're known, (or something similar) you can buy one that someone has pre-configured so all you have to do is pick the stream you want. You can access any number of premium channels without having to pay for the pricey subscription. Even if you choose to pay for access to premium streams, it's a fraction of the cost. While this sounds like an advert for piracy it's not, because you're handing money over to criminals. It's just showing how much easier it is. Really,  from a user experience perspective, it's not that different to watching a legitimate streaming site.

While clearly lucrative, which is why it's so prevalent, the scope of IPTV and Kodi-style piracy was mostly unknown. Until Canadian broadband management company Sandvine decided to go and investigate for itself. Apparently it's pretty massive. Or at least it is in North America.

By monitoring North American internet traffic across multiple fixed access tier-1 networks, it found that around 6.5 per cent of households are accessing known TV piracy services at peak times. While that may not sound like a lot, it works out at seven million sub subscribers, and presumably even more actual viewers. For reference the population of London is around 8.78 million, which means across North America there's almost a whole London (or New York if you'd prefer) engaging in this kind of streaming piracy.

It's estimated that these seven million subscribers could IPTV providers generate around $800 million in revenue each year - assuming an average cost of $10 a month. And that's just North America. When you take everywhere else into consideration Sandvine estimates that it's a billion dollar industry.

Surprisingly Kodi itself only accounts for three per cent of the traffic, with another two per cent from Roku boxes. The remaining 95 per cent actually comes from custom set top boxes. What those custom boxes run isn't clear, but apparently it's not Kodi. That's despite Kodi being the one that's often vilified by the rights holders trying to crack down on this sort of thing.

For comparison, BitTorrent traffic only accounted for 1.73 per cent during peak hours - a number that's dropping at a steady pace. Meanwhile Netflix and YouTube have yet to be overtaken by the pirate streams, though the pirates aren't that far behind - as this graph shows.

TorrentFreak points out, however, that the IPTV streams' overall share rises during the night as Netflix and YouTube viewership drops off. It notes this as a problem, because pirate streams continue to stream data even when they're not in use - making it look as though people are watching when they're not. Apparently the only way to stop this is to physically turning off the power.

Still those numbers are way ahead of regular torrents, which is no real surprise. Streaming is easier, and both consumers and rights holders have been slowly figuring that out. Whether authorities can put a stop to it isn't clear, but it does (kind of) show that people aren't opposed to paying for access to streamable content. They just seem to want something convenient and affordable, and I don't blame them. [Sandvine via TorrentFreak]


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