If you are reading this then you probably already know what IPTV is – if not then it’s basically streaming video content from an online source to your device. This content can be movies, TV channels or music videos… Once you get the correct software and equipment you can open up a whole world of “free” online content.
So what do you need to access all this free content?
The basic’s are basically a PC / Laptop / Tablet and an internet connection – there are websites appearing (and disappearing) all the time that allow you to view content via a web browser. The problem with this approach is that as these websites become popular their “streams” become overloaded and start to lag / buffer (jumpy picture) and they also become the target for lawyers who are quick to take these websites down. (see legal info below)
There is also a well known media player called “Kodi” (Google it) which although does not allow access to illegal streams by default – can be easily expanded by a growing number of plugins which do. The creators of Kodi are very keen to point out that their software DOES NOT encourage or facilitate the viewing of copyright content… fair enough. 🙂
Kodi can be installed on PC, Mac and Android devices (plus others) which makes it ideal for everyone as a default base to use accross multiple devices – it also means that the latest kodi plugins automatically work accross the whole range of devices.
Because kodi can be installed on Android devices it has also opened up a new niche in the hardware market – Android TV Box’s. These are small TV set-top boxes that connect to your TV and the internet and are controlled via a remote control – just like a cable or satellite box. They are low cost (you can pay around £40 for a half decent box on Amazon) and you have a whole world of TV and Movies ready to go.
Quality of Content
Most content for “free” is quite low quality – it costs money to stream all this stuff so to keep costs down the streams are usually around 480p or lower – now this can be fine for certain programs but stuff like Football really needs a higher quality (720p+) to look decent, especially if you have a box hooked up to a large TV.
This is something that I intially thought was very wrong – these streams are illegal so why should people be charging for access to them? But after a while I took the plunge and decided to test out a few of these services. I was amazed by the quality of these paid HD streams – we are talking 720p on some channels and 1080p on others and UHD / 4K streams are in the pipeline!
So my inital thought was wrong – I’m happy to admit it -paid streams are WAY better than free streams… yes they have their issues – sometimes you get a bit of buffering and sometimes the channels go down but on the whole you get around 90% hassle free viewing for around $10 a month (shop around)
Legal Stuff – Important!
I’m no legal expert so I am going to tell you how I understand the current legal standing on streams in the UK (your country may be different and the law could change so don’t blame me if things go wrong!) and my understanding of the law maybe incorrect but here goes…
Viewing streams is “technically” not illegal in the UK because the law that applies to copyright material covers possession of the material (not viewing) and because a stream isn’t technically downloaded and stored on a device then the viewer never technically possess the content. If you download a movie or TV show to watch later then that IS illegal.
Streaming content – those people providing access to streams (free or paid) ARE breaking copyright law – this includes those people who provide the streams plus the people who provide access to them (Kodi addons or IPTV service providers)
Box sellers – these people are also technically breaking UK law if the devices they are selling are pre-configured to access copyright content – I don’t think that buying these boxes is illegal though.
So in summary – it may be “technically” legal (in the UK – today) but that doesn’ mean that the copyright holders are lying down – oh know, because IPTV is now evolving from a “hobby” into a fully fledged business with large IPTV providers making a LOT of money and people are now “cutting the cord” (cancelling the cable TV contracts) you can bet the copyrigh holders (like Sky, BT, ITV etc) are already working on ways to try and block access to these streams – of course the internet will do what it always does and evolve so it’s a constant game of cat and mouse… My advice is if you want to try IPTV then go for it – it’s amazing. But don’t “cut the cord” just yet – it’s not that stable and the cable companies are hunting the streams down.