A new survey from YouGov has suggested that around 4.9 million of the United Kingdom’s broadband connected adults use pirated TV streaming services via platforms such as “illegal Kodi boxes, Amazon Fire TV Chipped Sticks, and illegal streaming apps on smartphones and tablets.”

Back in the old days people would exchange pirated TV shows and Movies via Newsgroups and IRC chat, then as that became increasingly restricted they moved to P2P (File Sharing) and Cyberlockers (file sharing websites). However the rise of ISP website blocking and DCMS file removals have eaten into the latter two, while legal alternatives like NOW TV, Amazon Video and Netflix have also had a positive impact.

Nevertheless many people remain frustrated by the segregated market for premium video content, which often requires users to hold several subscriptions to different services in order to access all of the content they want. Meanwhile most new Movie releases continue to only be shown in the cinemas and premium sport TV content has become increasingly expensive (younger users in particular may struggle to afford these).

Perhaps unsurprisingly many internet users have taken to using pirated streaming services as an alternative, which make it very easy to get what they want and when they want it.


Interestingly YouGov notes that around 87% of the 2.6 million users who expected to start using pirated streaming services “soon” (note: 400,000 people said they were looking to start using them within the next 3 months) already have a Pay TV service, while 49% of the same group expect to cancel their TV subscription within 12 months of getting a pirated device.

YouGov Summary

Those who are not yet using the pirated platforms pose an even greater challenge to subscription services. Such streaming services are seen as being of significant financial benefit to users. Nearing half (46%) of those with access to one of the platforms think that their use has saved them money on film and TV viewing, with the average saving since they began their use being £212.

Alongside the short-term problem of cancelled subscriptions is a longer term one – namely, many of the people using pirated platforms are younger. Adoption of pirated platforms is especially high among millennials, with 18-34 year-olds accounting for 37% of users (1.8 million people). There is a real danger that having got used to getting TV services for free it will hard to convince them to pay in the future.

Meanwhile the price of subscriptions meant that some feel as though they aren’t getting value for money from pay TV. One person thinking of abandoning their subscriptions in favour of using a pirated streaming platform had “mixed feelings” about the move as it would be “likely to increase prices for others.” However, they felt that sports streams are “ripping of the consumer and can see why people feel justified” in avoiding pay TV services.

We should point out that Kodi itself is not “illegal“, although it can be modified to stream pirated content just like many other platforms can (some Kodi boxes have these “fully loaded” third party apps already installed and it is the use of these platforms that YouGov have assessed).

Clearly this is an issue that has Rights Holders worried and indeed the High Court recently granted a request by the Premier League (Football Association), which forced Sky Broadband, BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk to block a number of servers associated with infringing match footage (live video streams).

No doubt we can expect more of this in the future and the police have also been cracking down on sales of related Kodi boxes, albeit with mixed success. As usual this often ends up being a game of whack-a-mole, where one stream is taken offline only for another to emerge somewhere else moments later. At the same time such blocks can often be circumvented in other ways, such as by avoiding the blocking ISP’s network.