According to statistics provided by the MPAA late 2017, around 70% of 38 million Kodi users were using the platform to pirate content.
Newer figures haven’t yet been provided but at the time, around 26 million were said to be using the platform with ‘pirate’ add-ons installed. Many of these will be accessing movies and TV shows, without permission.
For Kodi add-on users to access content, it has to be stored somewhere online. That is usually one of the dozens of online storage providers available today, which are often called cyberlockers or simply file-hosting sites.
While the appearance of links to content in Kodi add-ons seems to suggest a level of cooperation between the platforms, file-hosting platforms are generally unhappy with their links appearing in this manner.
As reported back in 2016, cyberlockers often generate revenue via advertising. However, many third-party Kodi add-ons prevent these from appearing in front of the viewer, which means that the hosting sites themselves aren’t able to generate revenue from them.
One of the affected sites is RapidVideo, a popular file-hosting site that officially markets itself as a “CDN Video Hosting Service”. The platform has been suffering the effects of ‘freeloading’ Kodi add-on users and other related market challenges for some time. Now the problem appears to have come to a head.
In a posting to webmaster forum WJunction, RapidVideo revealed that it will be changing its business model.
“We can’t finance ourselves from internet ads any longer,” the company wrote.
Over the past three years, RapidVideo says it has suffered from abuse of its service, much of it at the hands of Kodi add-ons and similar tools that are able to bypass the displaying of ads. In fact, these appear to be sucking up around half of the company’s bandwidth.
“We have around 650 Gbit/s of bandwidth in use, while 320 Gbit/s is for KODI, download tools, etc and for that we don’t get paid by the ads,” the site said.
Other problems exist too, including advertising scams and the unauthorized hotlinking of files, but RapidVideo feels it can bring things under control by taking several measures, including implementing a $5 per month subscription.
The company says it is also bringing its pay-per-view rewards program to an end, meaning that people hoping to earn commissions when people view their uploaded content will no longer get paid. While users of the service won’t be delighted by the news, it does address a complaint raised by Hollywood last year.
In 2018, the MPAA, together with several other trade groups, submitted its annual list of ‘notorious markets’ to the US Trade Representative (USTR). Among them was RapidVideo, which among other things was called out over its affiliate program.
“The site incentivizes users to upload content with an affiliate program. The site pays from $7.50 to $60 USD per 10,000 views depending on the country in which the viewer is located,” the MPAA wrote.
The MPAA had other criticisms too but RapidVideo later fought back, claiming that it processes takedown requests, has a designated DMCA agent, a repeat infringer policy, and even has a filter system to ensure that removed files are not re-uploaded.
Update: Allex from Rapidvideo reached out to TorrentFreak with some additional background information. He says that the decision to stop the pay-per-view program was made in conjunction with another popular site, which will do the same later.
Rapidvideo further explains that Kodi add-ons are using the direct video URL from the HTML5 video player, bypassing the ads. This is one of the main contributors to the decrease in ad revenues.
“We are a service that we started with one popup per view, but as our service grew more the bandwidth load increased, but it was not growing at the same rate as the ad networks revenues.”