Despite a notable move to unlicensed streaming portals, millions of people still use public torrent sites every day to obtain the latest movies and TV shows. The process is easy, relatively quick, and free.
While these open-to-all platforms are undoubtedly popular, others prefer to use so-called ‘private trackers’, torrent sites with a private members’ club feel. Barriers to entry are much higher and many now require either an invitation from someone who is already a member or the passing of what amounts to an entrance exam.
Once accepted as a member, however, the rewards can be great. While public sites are a bit of a free-for-all, private trackers tend to take control of the content on offer, weeding out poor quality releases and ensuring only the best reach the user. Seeders are also plentiful, meaning that downloads complete in the fastest times.
On the flipside, some of the most exclusive trackers are almost impossible to join. A prime example is HDBits, a site that at last count wouldn’t accept more than 21,000 users yet keeps actual memberships down to around the 18,000 mark. Invites are extremely rare and those already inside tend to guard their accounts with their lives.
Second chances are rare on a site indexing more than 234,000 high-quality releases seeded by more than 950,000 peers and one of the broadest selection of Blu-ray offerings around. That’s what makes the results of a survey currently being carried out on the site even more remarkable.
In a poll launched by site staff, HDBits members – who by definition are already part of one of the most exclusive pirate haunts around – were asked whether they also pay for legal streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
At the time of writing more than 5,300 members have responded, with a surprising 57% (3,036) stating that they do indeed subscribe to at least one legal streaming service. When questioned on usage, more than a quarter of respondents said they actually use the legal service MORE than they use HDBits, which for a site of that caliber is quite a revelation.
Keeping in mind that the site is creeping towards a quarter of a million torrents and is almost impossible to get into, it’s perhaps no surprise that unscrupulous people with access to an invitation on the site are selling them (against the site’s wishes) for up to $350 each online.
Let that sink in. For access to a pirate service, people are being asked to pay the equivalent of three years’ worth of Netflix subscriptions. Yet of those that are already members, more than a quarter use their Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime account more than they do HDBits. That’s a huge feather in the cap for the legal platforms that have nowhere near the selection that HDBits does.
One commenter in the HDBits survey thread gave his opinion on why Netflix might be winning the war.
“A thread several years ago like this was why I bought Netflix stock. Stunned not just that people here would actually pay for streaming 1 year old content in poor quality, but that almost everyone seemed to be doing it. If Netflix can win over [HDBits] then it is clearly a solution that will win over everyone,” he wrote.
Of course, perhaps the most important thing here is that even the most hardcore pirates have no problem purchasing official content, when the environment is right.
Unlike other surveys that can scare people away from admitting they’re breaking the law, most people on HDBits have nothing to hide from their peers. They know they’re pirates and aren’t afraid to admit it, yet almost 60% of them are happy to pay for legal content on top.
Entertainment companies often like to put pirates in one box and legitimate customers in another. Once again it’s now being made clear that such neatly defined barriers aren’t easy to come by.