Piracy is a tricky subject, especially when it comes to pay TV. On one hand, there is little question that stealing is wrong, and streaming pay TV channels without paying for them is, without question, stealing. But on the other hand, television networks and pay TV service providers have created an industry that couldn’t possibly be more anti-consumer. Bundles force subscribers to pay for content they’ll never watch, customer service is atrocious, and shady deals prevent competition in each region so consumers rarely have choices.
At this point, cutting the cord is the only way consumers can fight back, but it obviously comes at a cost — most programming is no longer available as it airs. Beyond that, the networks might feel the sting but pay TV providers still win, since they also supply the country with high-speed Internet service.
Is piracy the answer?
People who steal content have different reasons for doing so, but “protest” is rarely among them. Money is typically the motivation — people don’t want to pay for things if they don’t have to. And the irony is more often than not, people who pirate content like movies and TV shows likely wouldn’t pay for that content even if they had no other choice.
Well, I can’t condone piracy. I wouldn’t even if I could — and I have admittedly pirated digital content myself. People who create content deserve to be paid for their work, and piracy steals money out of their pockets. Period.
But the pay TV market has to change. Thanks to networks like HBO and ESPN that are spearheading a shift toward online-only options, the market finally is changing. And of course, services like Netflix are playing a major role as well. But it’s not happening fast enough. Maybe, just maybe, losing customers more quickly will help networks realize that streaming their content independent of cable and satellite bundles is a big step in the right direction.
So let’s talk about the sites and services that cord cutters use to stream pay TV and movies for free.
In a recent article, I shared the news that pirate TV service cCloud TV had amassed more than 500 pay TV channels. The service doesn’t create pirate TV streams, but instead hunts them down around the web and provides access to them all in a single free interface available on nearly any computer, iPhone, Android phone, game console or set-top box.
Having all of those feeds in one place is nice, but service interruptions are common as feeds are shut down and new ones pop up.
Since publishing that article, a number of people have contacted me with recommendations for alternatives they believe to be better. I’ve combed through them all and come away with two in particular that seem to provide the best available experience for people looking to stream pay TV and movies for free.
More advanced users seem to flock to a piece of software called Kodi. The app is the next generation of the popular XBMC platform and the latest stable version is 14.1 “Helix.”
With Kodi, users can easily set up a very capable system that streams more than 1,000 channels for free. Kodi also facilitates DVR-like functionality, and some users even steal pay per view events with the software. Kodi itself isn’t necessarily intended to be used to pirate pay TV or steal movies, but it certainly puts the gun in the user’s hand, even if it doesn’t pull the trigger.
The second service that popped up in many emails is called Stream2Watch. This is a web app similar to cCloud TV that you access in your browser, and it provides multiple streams for each channel it offers. Available pay TV channels include HBO, Starz, Showtime, AMC, FX, TBS and many more, along with more than 100 international channels.
There are plenty of other websites, desktop apps and mobile apps out there that get the job done, but these seem to be among the more common ones among people who pirate pay TV. Perhaps as they grow more popular and as even more alternatives pop up, networks will finally realize that it’s time for the decades-old cable TV model to be rebuilt from the ground up.
You can only slap a fresh coat of paint on a rickety old shack so many times before it crumbles.