TORONTO - Canadians who stream pirated TV and film content have shifted almost entirely from using BitTorrent technology to the more user-friendly Kodi software that's commonly installed on TV set-top boxes running Google's Android operating system, suggests a new report.
The Waterloo, Ont.-based network management company Sandvine analyzed anonymized data from 100,000 Canadian households last year and found about one in 10 had at least one set-top box, computer, smartphone or tablet running the Kodi software, which can be used to access legal content but is more commonly known for offering links to TV shows and movies.
Sandvine estimates about seven per cent of the studied Canadian households were using Kodi to access pirated content, compared to six per cent of the U.S. households it looked at separately.
Another form of pirated streaming, which requires a monthly subscription to watch thousands of live TV channels from around the world, was estimated by Sandvine to be used by about eight per cent of the Canadian households.
Dan Deeth, manager of media and industry relations for Sandvine, says he believes most consumers know what they're buying when they pick up one of the streaming boxes, which often tout a "free TV for life" offer. But he says it is possible some may not realize they're accessing pirated content.
"The average consumer might not know but they're probably fooling themselves or turning a blind eye, because to get those services legitimately you'd be paying over $100 a month to get 1,000 channels -- all the pay-per-views, all the sports channels, all the premium HBOs -- from a legitimate source."
Sandvine notes the live TV streams accounted for about 7.5 per cent of the downloaded data used by Canadians during peak evening hours. In comparison, Netflix was tied to about a third of the data Canadians used during evening prime-time hours, while YouTube was close to 20 per cent.
Deeth says a good chunk of the traffic from the live TV streams is related to international content, which is particularly popular in urban areas with immigrant communities.
"We think they're accessing content that maybe they can't get as much here. Bell and Rogers obviously offer international packages but there might be five or 10 channels not 50 or 100. The international aspect is a big driver of who is using these services."
The report notes that while BitTorrent accounted for as much as 15 per cent of daily traffic in Canada in 2014, it was down to just 1.6 per cent in September. While BitTorrent can be used legitimately to distribute content, Sandvine believes the use of BitTorrent in Canada for legal content "is negligible."
Deeth says the company began tracking the decline of BitTorrent over five years ago, which was initially being linked to the rise of legitimate streaming services like Netflix.