IPTV – Data centres for illegal streaming services

For this ad hoc study, FDS File Defense Service and the IVD took a closer look at the intermediaries of the illegal IPTV streams. For this purpose, 25 relevant websites were examined. The sites regularly provide playlists in the form of M3U files (station and channel lists).

Such channel lists bring together a channel of IPTV streams and a receiver in a very convenient way. The M3U file is simply loaded into a program and the customer can see the channel lists and gets access to the channels in his program.
It becomes even more convenient with set-top boxes. Very often these are so-called KODI boxes, which then “conjure” the content on the TV screen.

The “free of charge” business model is used by such websites to distribute M3U files in order to lure in customers. Normally, M3U files have a very short lifetime (12 to 24 hours). Therefore, the user has to renew them permanently to use the free services. To avoid this hassle customers can simply pay a subscription fee. These illegal subscriptions cost only a fraction of the price of legal offers. For a mere € 10 or less a month there are hundreds of channels, including many Pay-TV channels.
This is not surprising because the distributors do not have any procurement costs for the content they market.

This study is based on approximately 45,000 transmitter and channel lists which are distributed by 25 web pages. These lists led to 211,000 analyzable illegal IPTV streams which were subsequently analyzed by origin (the data centre). In addition, the data home of the M3U Files distributing websites were examined. In the case of data centres spread over several countries, the headquarters of the main company was taken as the country of origin.

1. Study of the pages where M3U files are distributed

a) Data centres of those sites that distribute M3U files
The vast majority (94%) of M3U files distributing sites are located in data centres in the EU. Only 6% are located in the USA, including 2 of the 25 websites whose origin could not be determined because they hide completely behind Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a US-American content delivery network. (The percentages are weighted according to the number of illegal streams.)

b) Single countries of the M3U Files distributing pages

France is not only football world champion but also a champion in the distribution of M3U files. 70% of the important pages with M3U Files are hosted in France.

2. Investigation of illegal streams

a) Location of the data centres from which the illegal IPTV streams originate – EU and third countries
Almost 85% of the illegal streams investigated came from EU data centres. The files were found practi-cally on our doorstep.

b) Countries with data centres for illegal IPTV streams

Like the distribution sites, France is also the preferred storage location for illegal streams.

c) Proportion of the data centres for the illegal streams
Companies from France are at the top of the list, similar to the country evaluation. OVH and Free SAS (Online SAS) are in first and third place. Worldstream from the Netherlands is in second place.

The top 5 data centres all come from the EU. They already account for 81.1% of illegal streams. The top 10 of all data centres reach a share of 93.8%, 6 of the top 10 data centres come from the EU.


d) World map of data centres

(Each point stands for a data centre or a feeding IP address. Not affected countries are grey, then graded depending on the proportion from yellow (up to 3%) to dark red (over 30%).)

e) Zoom to Europe: European data centres for illegal streams

France and the Netherlands are the countries with the most illegal streams in the world.

Ad hoc study, November 2018

FDS File Defense Service UG (haftungsbeschränkt), Volker Rieck
An der Autobahn 24, 23858 Reinfeld
T 04533 7950 010, vr@filedefense.de

IVD – Interessenverband des Video- und Medienfachhandels in Deutschland e.V., Jörg Weinrich
Postfach 10 30 07, 40021 Düsseldorf
T 02151 454 66 38, weinrich@ivd-online.de