Netflix, Amazon Video, Hulu, CBS All Access, fuboTV, DAZN, NowTV, the forthcoming Disney+, cable TV, terrestrial TV, satellite, cinema.
How long is this list? Nowhere near long enough if you want to come close to matching what’s currently being offered by premium pirate IPTV services.
If any of the important ‘pirate’ IPTV providers flicked a magic switch and suddenly became legal overnight, all of the above would struggle to keep their heads above water. Add another dozen legal services to the list, and the statement would still stand.
The range of content offered by ‘pirate’ IPTV services demolishes that offered by all of the world’s key providers combined. And many do it for between $5 and $25 per month – because they don’t have to worry about the costs of making it.
It usually takes a couple of minutes to sign up and that content is available on a wide range of devices, from phones through to smart TVs. Almost any device, wherever people like. How it should be.
The public wants what the public gets, at least when they sail the IPTV high seas. Until it all goes to shit in an instant, of course.
This week, Vader – one of the most recognized ‘pirate’ IPTV services – suddenly disappeared, taking not only the subscriptions of users with them but also money handed over by resellers of the service. Communication with what are effectively creditors was scrappy at best, quite incredible at worst.
After declaring that there had been “no choice but to close down Vader”, supposed facts about the closure were widely circulated by various parties, sometimes accompanied by documents and quotes to back up often-conflicting claims.
Depending on which version one believes, if any, Vader was raided, sued, told to enter into a settlement agreement with ACE (the huge anti-piracy coalition founded by the MPAA, Netflix and Amazon), or had simply taken everyone’s money and headed for the hills. Or perhaps a combination of the above. Or none.
The ‘running’ theory gained traction following a statement from Vader which asked people to “take the financial losses we are all going to take, as resellers and direct sellers”, i.e please don’t ask for your money back. That was further compounded by another statement in which the service asked for donations to fund its legal defense and to help pay back people who doggedly asked for a refund.
Now, if Vader was “raided” as some pretty detailed missives have claimed this week, would it still have control over its customer list and bank accounts, in order to make these refunds happen? That doesn’t seem likely, but stranger things have happened. If it was being sued it probably would, but there’s no evidence of that either.
While there appears to be no public record of Vader getting served, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the subject of legal action, won’t be in the future, or doesn’t need a big cash injection. For example, if ACE has really offered the service the opportunity to settle, Vader will be given a set of demands. If they do not comply, then legal action might follow.
We have proof that ACE, among other things, demanded cooperation as part of previous settlement agreements with other entities. That meant promising to hand over information on others in the ecosystem. But would ACE really offer such a giant service the opportunity to take the easy route when it has chosen to sue the likes of TickBox, Dragon Box, and SETTV?
To find out, within hours of Vader’s shutdown TorrentFreak contacted ACE directly and asked them to confirm or deny that the MPAA (which now conducts its anti-piracy activities through ACE) was involved in the shutdown of Vader. We were told that the ACE coalition was working on a statement. Perfect.
Four days later we had received nothing, so we prompted the anti-piracy group for a response. We were told that our request hadn’t been forgotten and that it was hoped it could get a statement to us this week.
Perhaps needless to say, we haven’t received anything.
This is, of course, interesting in itself. If ACE wasn’t involved in the closure of Vader, then a simple response to clarify that fact would have been simple and could have been done in two letters – NO. However, if ACE was involved, that would make any statement much more complex.
If some kind of deal is indeed being thrashed out, we know that previous agreements sent out by ACE contained clauses that recipients can’t talk about the settlement to anyone but their lawyers. Vader clearly doesn’t want to talk about much in public and, at least for now, neither does ACE. Draw your own conclusions.
However, the fact that ACE hasn’t made a statement to confirm or deny might also be advantageous, intentional or otherwise, from an anti-piracy perspective.
Whether ACE is involved in this debacle or not, the complete lack of clarity surrounding this entire situation only serves to undermine trust in pirate IPTV providers. Granted, a public lawsuit would achieve similar goals, but right now the lack of information looks bad on Vader, not on ACE. In fact, if they aren’t involved, this is a free lunch for ACE and a big minus for Vader and by extension, pirate IPTV.
And this brings us to the point. Pirate IPTV services do not operate like legitimate companies such as Netflix. When people give Netflix their hard earned cash they can be pretty sure that they’ll get what they pay for but should the company be unable to fulfill its obligations, a very clear public statement will be made.
It certainly won’t shut down with zero notice, with no proper explanation, and begin asking for donations to dig it out of a hole. But come on, does anyone really expect an entity in this niche to operate any differently?
The main reason why anyone chooses to do business with a pirate IPTV provider (whether that’s Vader or any other) is because they don’t play by “the rules”. It’s because they thumb their noses at authority. It’s because they solve the problems of having dozens of subscription packages. It’s because they offer great value for money.
People want all this with no drawbacks? Think again.
Fulfilling all of these demands flat-out requires them to be unorthodox. It requires them to be ambiguous. It requires them to act illegally and it requires them to save their own asses when the sheriff comes to town.
Anyone who thinks it should play out differently should stick to buying bridges.
The truth about ‘pirate’ TV services is simple. You pay your money, you take a chance. People should approach IPTV subscriptions expecting to lose their money – that’s why month-to-month packages are often recommended to those with an aversion to losing cash.
People should not be surprised when such services go down temporarily or indeed permanently without notice. And they should presume that they’ll buffer at times but be happy when they don’t. Expectations should be set low by default to avoid disappointment.
‘Pirate’ IPTV services are a gamble, pure and simple. The odds are usually stacked in the user’s favor so their popularity is unlikely to wane in the near future. That says a lot about the service they mostly deliver. But make no mistake, there are no guarantees in this game.
There’s a whole new generation of pirates entering this market on both sides, supply and demand, whose motivations – one way or another – is to either make or save money. In the end, it is that balancing act that will tip the scales of success for providers and users alike.
Vader may be gone for now but there are still plenty of options around. As soon as its demise was announced, many suppliers went into overdrive to pick up the slack. How many customers will now choose to stay away is anyone’s guess but with bargains on offer, there probably won’t be any shortage of money changing hands.
Just don’t expect anyone to be particularly upfront about what’s really going on, whether that’s the providers, resellers, or anti-piracy groups. There’s way too much at stake to unmuddy the waters just because some people want answers.
The truth is always the first casualty of any war and this one is no different.