Online content pirates take on the SVODs

One torrenting site now allows users to stream mostly illegal content in the browser, but an industry analyst says it's no match for the major legal platforms.
February 9, 2016

Torrenting site The Pirate Bay has adopted a new feature that could see it compete for streaming viewers with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

Pirate Bay, which hosts mostly illegal content uploaded by users for others to download, has recently added a streaming option for its titles. Now, users have the option of immediately streaming content within their browser from the site, instead of waiting to download (and taking up space on their computers).

It worth noting that torrenting copyrighted content is illegal, and punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $150,000 per file. But that hasn’t stopped many viewers from giving these pirate sites a try.

Juan Pablo Morales Sarmiento, a digital media analyst and CEO of Nuevos Media and Transmedia Talks, told StreamDaily in an email that the rising capabilities of the illegal download sites don’t yet seriously threaten major SVODs, but they could prompt change within the legal streaming industry.

Notably, SVODs will be prompted to examine the kind of content they offer and, more importantly, the perceived value users get for their money.

“(SVOD) platforms will acquire content faster day by day,” he said. “The more content they add to their services, the better they (are able) to compete legally.”

He said SVODs are currently gaining serious traction among users even as torrent sites beef up their options. (He cited a recent study from Leichtman Research Group which found 57% of U.S. households subscribed to one or more SVOD services).

Still, Morales Sarmiento said even SVOD subscribers sometimes use torrenting sites “as a second alternative” to find content that cannot be found on most SVODs.

Netflix, for example, recently declined to renew its partnership with distributor Epix in favor of more exclusive content deals — leading to popular titles such as The Hunger Games (pictured) and Transformers being pulled from Netflix’s library.

Additionally, among the three major SVODs in the U.S. (Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu), Hulu is the only service to upload new episodes of current television shows the day after their linear broadcasts. All other services upload the full season after it has finished airing on linear television.

At the same time, he said, torrenting sites don’t boast the technical chops or the business know-how to create a better (or even similar) user experience to those offered by major SVODs. For example, he said, torrent sites are often forced to migrate to new domains to avoid being shut down for illegal activity.

“Systems like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon will never be forced to change their domain names,” he said.

Plus, as 4K becomes more in-demand, he said, without proper adaptive streaming technology, content viewed at the resolution will take far too long to illegally load. He also said multi-language content will probably not be easy to find through torrenting sites, since the content is all uploaded by users.

“It is hard to believe that any illegal service could support an adaptive bitrate streaming experience or offer multi-language content,” he said.

In the end, said Morales Sarmiento, both torrenting and SVOD sites have one common foe, over which both are winning: “The loser again: traditional TV.”

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One Comment »

  • Marcie Ellison said:

    Well those who has ever download any videos using Pirate Bay
    they know that this site always host illegal content and if this opportunity of streaming introduced by them people will definitely going to use VPN to make them anonymous while watching videos.

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