Sandvine, the Waterloo Region-based broadband equipment maker and networking company, has released a new report highlighting the illegal streaming of content in North America.

And if you’re a content producer or distributor, the results aren’t pretty.

Sandvine’s study, entitled, Global Internet Phenomena Spotlight: The “Fully-Loaded” Kodi Ecosystem, focuses on the use of a media-player product made by open-source software company Kodi. Kodi’s system allows users to view videos on PCs, set-top boxes, smartphones and tablets.

“The Kodi name,” Sandvine says, “has become increasingly associated with streaming of unlicensed content” due to the emergence of fully-loaded set-top boxes equipped with versions of the Kodi software that contain unauthorized add-ons that make it easy to to stream live and on-demand content – for free.

Free streaming robs content distributors like Rogers and Bell of revenue and ultimately robs content makers, too.

Sandvine found that nearly nine per cent of North American homes have a device with a Kodi installation and that nearly 70 per cent of those devices contain unofficial add-ons configured to access unlicenced product. In Canada, seven per cent of households have a Kodi device configured to access unlicensed content, Sandvine says. That means more than one million of Canada’s 15.4 million households are illegally streaming, according to the CBC.

The practice of illegal streaming isn’t new. Last year, Bell, Rogers and Vidéotron launched a lawsuit to stop the sale of the modified devices and in March the Federal Court of Appeal upheld a temporary injunction preventing their sale, pending the outcome of the court case. Advertising for the products continues, however.

What Sandvine has done is generate data that frames the problem.

“We wanted to bring this knowledge to the market,” said Sandvine spokesman Dan Deeth. “There’s quite an ecosystem behind the scenes.

“People say, ‘I shouldn’t pay my service provider money for content when I can get it for free. Well, the truth is, if you like Game of Thrones, someone has to pay to produce that.

“It’s not for us to say who is right or wrong,” said Deeth. “We’re just saying this exists, and we should have a conversation about it.

“There’s a big sign right around the corner from our head office that says, ‘Kodi setup. Mac, Android, PC.’ So certainly within the Waterloo Region there are people benefiting economically from these things.”

Deeth said that Sandvine is additionally concerned that Kodi is being unfairly tarred by the practice.

“Kodi gets a bit of a bad name. People who make Kodi [software] are actually hard-working open source developers. We wanted to tell people, ‘Kodi is not the bad guy. The bad guys are the people who are taking [Kodi] software and modifying it without their permission.’”

Boxes configured with the plug-ins are said to be available for about $100.

Photo: Zenith Television, by Senor Velasco, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

About The Author

Craig Daniels
Senior Journalist

Craig Daniels is a veteran reporter, columnist and editor who has joined Communitech’s editorial team as senior journalist. He worked most recently at Postmedia in Hamilton, where he led the team that produced the National Post, and before that at the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Sun, Financial Post, the Montreal Daily News and the Telegraph-Journal in Saint John, N.B. He has an abiding interest in the transformational power and promise of tech and startup ecosystems, is a commercially licensed pilot, and has a debilitating wrist-watch fetish.