The big picture: Streaming services are an excellent alternative to piracy but exclusivity of original content is leading to fragmentation and that’s driving some viewers right back to file sharing. It's not financially feasible to subscribe to every service out there so some are paying for their favorite or two and pirating everything else.
Streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video were supposed to curb piracy by providing subscribers with an easy and affordable way to consume content. Mission accomplished? Yes and no.
The aforementioned streaming services and their competitors have indeed created an ecosystem in which people are willing to pay a reasonable rate for access to a massive library of media. But along the way, something happened. Rather than simply serving as a hub for movies and TV shows, these companies decided they wanted to participate in the production of original content.
Again, this has largely been a success. Without Netflix, for example, we wouldn’t have Stranger Things, Black Mirror or House of Cards. Amazon has delivered The Grand Tour, Transparent and The Man in the High Castle, just to name a few. You get the point.
It makes sense for a streaming outfit to produce original content as it serves as a differentiator between it and the competition. If service A offers something that service B doesn’t, that gives consumers a valid reason to select one provider over another.
It’s this exclusivity, or fragmentation, that is steering some back to the path of piracy as subscribing to every available service becomes cost prohibitive at a certain point.
As outlined in Sandvine’s October 2018 Global Internet Phenomena Report, BitTorrent traffic now accounts for nearly 22 percent of total upstream volume (and roughly 32 percent in EMEA regions).
One of the reasons it’s higher in EMEA regions is because these areas don’t always have instant access to the latest content. If a Game of Thrones episode is launched and isn’t immediately available to stream, some eager fans will turn to file sharing to get the episode ASAP. And in some regions, exclusives aren’t available at all, giving interested viewers virtually no legal options to watch.
In actuality, BitTorrent numbers are probably even higher than what Sandvine is reporting due to the use of proxies and VPNs.