At the end of 2017, Flixed was one of the first cord-cutter blogs to notice that there was something fishy about the popular streaming service startup known as Set TV. After looking into the company, we learned that its founder Jason Labossiere had tried to use YouTube videos to market an illegal diet plan. Other information we found– like its “F” Better Business Bureau rating — also seemed like red flags.
When we reached out to Set TV’s customer support team to find out if it had in fact purchased the rights to stream the 500+ channels that it carried, the company refused to prove that it was legitimate. Several months later, Dish Network and others took the company to court. The verdict: Set TV was ordered to pay Dish Network $90,199,000 in damages.
Set TV is just one of several illegal IPTV services that authorities have shut down over the past several months. But lawsuits and crackdowns haven’t seemed to phase streaming pirates. A cursory look around the web reveals that there are now vast numbers of them. The purveyors of these shady services are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to market to people that are sick of paying high cable prices.
A billion-dollar black market industry
According to a 2018 study published by Canadian broadband management company Sandvine, 5.5% of US and Canadian households use pirate IPTV services. The black market industry is estimated to be worth more than a billion dollars worldwide.
The fact that so many people are willing to buy IPTV subscriptions has made it profitable for pirates to invest in Google and Facebook ads. Because some illegal IPTV services look legitimate on the surface (with all the bells and whistles, including digital TV streaming guides), it’s hard to prevent TV pirates from taking advantage of paid ad networks.
It’s easy to understand the appeal of low-priced black market TV. According to USA Today, traditional cable subscribers are still paying around $85/month for service. At the same time, wages in the US, Europe and Canada remain stagnant. On the surface, the promise of getting more entertainment for less money seems like a good way to save.
Authorities are catching up with IPTV crooks
Though you may shave money off of your entertainment bill with an illegal IPTV service, you’ll be left holding the bag if it disappears overnight.
After copyright enforcers shut Set TV down, all of the company’s subscribers lost their TV access– and nobody got a refund. Many of them likely paid in advance to take advantage subscription discounts.
The Set TV crackdown is part of a larger trend. In December of last year, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police raided a Canada-based pirate’s home and and seized 150 hardware items. In Europe, Dutch anti-piracy group BREIN is training the police how to identify and track down illegal TV services.
The illegal services that have managed to evade authorities thus far probably won’t be around for long. Onsist, FAST and Copyright Hero are just a few of the growing number of agencies that specialize in identifying and tracking down copyright infringers. They are using increasingly sophisticated techniques to shut down unauthorized streaming services.
Content creators are developing new ways to protect their intellectual property, as well. Forensic watermarking and digital fingerprinting are just a few of the techniques that are being used to make it harder for IPTV pirates to operate.
Forensic watermarking lets content owners embed unique serial numbers into their streams. Once embedded, authorities can use software to scan the internet when they want to check to see if the stream is being distributed illegally. Digital fingerprinting is even more convenient because it can be implemented without modifying the source stream in any way. The algorithms that power digital fingerprinting software can instantly recognize the unique aspects of any type of copyrighted content.
Pirate IPTV downsides
The hassle of having to constantly switch providers is just one of the main downsides of using illegal IPTV services to watch TV. Some IPTV pirates inject malware into the software that their customers download. Once malware infects your computer, it can compromise your privacy or even hijack your bandwidth. That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to downloading software that was created by a stranger on the internet.
Some types of malware produce cascading pop-up ads that refuse to go away. These pop-ups are often linked to ad programs, which hackers abuse to make money with the machines that they’ve infiltrated. A new type of malware called ransomware can lock down your computer for good. Other problems with pirate IPTV services include inconsistent service, limited features and poor customer support.
How to identify a pirate IPTV streaming service
- Too-good-to-be-true subscription plans. This could be the biggest tell of all. IPTV pirates don’t have to hire staff, customer service representatives or pay for the cost of licensing. All they do is capture streams from legitimate streaming services and resell them to their own customers. This gives them the ability to offer dirt cheap subscription plans to thousands of pirated TV channels. Real streaming services have all kinds of expenses that pirates don’t have to think about. In 2018, Netflix spent $13 billion just to license and produce its content.
- The brand name isn’t mentioned in the news. If a Google News search returns zero results for the streaming service you’re thinking of joining, that’s definitely a red flag as well. Technology and cord-cutting blogs follow all the legitimate streaming services very closely and report on every move they make.
- The menu contains a high number of international channels. If a streaming service gives all their subscribers access to channels from around the world regardless of their location, it’s most likely not legitimate. Many channels have exclusive deals that limit their availability.
- Amateur looking or cookie-cutter websites. If a streaming service’s website looks generic or if you notice lots of spelling and/or grammatical errors, it’s probably illegal.
- There’s no channel menu. Though some illegal IPTV services do add channel logos to their websites, many simply list the number of channels that they offer with each subscription option. The ones that don’t specify the channels they carry are probably attempting to avoid unwanted attention from anti-piracy groups.
- There isn’t any website at all. Some illegal IPTV services use locked Facebook groups, private Discord chat rooms and other closed communication channels to keep in touch with their customers.
- Streaming is the only service offered. As mentioned earlier, legitimate streaming service are expensive to operate. That’s why most are owned by large companies like PlayStation, AT&T or Dish Network and other businesses that offer more than just streaming. Very few startups have enough spending power to compete for streaming licenses.
100+ pirate IPTV streaming services
If you’re thinking about signing up for a streaming service, check the list below first before you hand over your credit card information. If you see the name of the service you’re considering, it’s probably not legitimate.
247 TV Stream
Boss Stream TV
Cool as Ice
Crazy Monkey TV
Da Fire Streamz
Double Agent IPTV
Fast IPTV Services (sonic)
Greenlight Streaming IPTV
IPTV Prime Streams
J&B Enterprise TV
My WiFi TV
No Fear TV
On Time TV Plus
SFP Alternative TV
The Cable Guy TV
XTreme HD IPTV
Four excellent legitimate streaming services
None of the pirate streaming services listed above have much of a future. Fortunately, there are a growing number of legitimate streaming services to choose from. The competitive market for is great for TV consumers because it means lower prices and more options for all.
There are now all kinds of licensed cable alternatives, ranging from sports-focused streaming services to full-featured ones that offer a little something for everyone. Here are a few of our favorites.
If you don’t like spending money on entertainment but you like to watch TV from time to time, Philo is one of the best options out there. For just $20/month, you get 58 channels. Its menu includes AMC, Animal Planet, History Channel, HGTV, MTV, VH1, TLC and many other popular channels. Despite the low price of Philo’s subscriptions, its features are competitive. Other streaming services limit you to a finite number of recording hours, but Philo lets you record as much TV content as you want. The company is in the process of building its own social media network, which will let Philo subscribers watch TV with their friends and family.
fuboTV is a streaming service that was designed with sports fans in mind. Over half of the 90+ channels that you get with your $55/month subscription are sports channels. Many of them are not carried by local cable companies and other streaming services. The other half of fuboTV’s lineup includes general entertainment channels like FX, Nat Geo, Food Network and many others. Another benefit of fuboTV is 4K. No other streaming service broadcasts live in 4K, but fuboTV does.
If the idea of only paying for channels that you actually watch appeals to you, Sling TV might be the streaming service for you. When you sign up for service, you can choose from two different $25/month base plans– or you can get both with a discount. From there, you can customize your experience by picking from a huge variety of different channel add-on packs. The add-ons are grouped into themes like kids’ entertainment, sports and lifestyle TV.
Hulu with Live TV gives you all the benefits of Hulu, with the addition of live television access. No other streaming service has as much on-demand content as this one. Local TV station coverage is another strong point, since Hulu with Live TV carries most local CBS, NBC, FOX and ABC affiliates. This makes it an excellent choice if you like the idea of getting all your TV entertainment through a single app. Another unique benefit of Hulu with Live TV is its Unlimited Screens upgrade, which lets you stream to an unlimited number of devices simultaneously on your home network.