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Torrent traffic is going wild during lockdown


We know full well that traffic to some of the biggest entertainment websites in the world has skyrocketed, with Netflix and YouTube seeing double-digit increases in traffic to their websites. Disney+, the recently-launched video streaming service from one of entertainment’s biggest brands, managed to pass 50 million subscribers worldwide without breaking a sweat. 

Porn sites have even seen increases beyond the average day’s traffic of between 10 and 25%. 

We are a captive audience while we’re in lockdown in various parts of the world, and we’re willing to part with however much money is necessary in order to stay entertained and to stave off isolation-caused boredom.

Well, sort of. Not everybody is willing to stump up the cash to be entertained, whether it’s by Disney films or something altogether more adult.

Torrenting still reigns supreme

The illicit trade in video remains strong, and while people may well end up spending some money on a streaming service, they’re also scrabbling around to freeload content too.

According to data compiled by TorrentFreak, countries where the coronavirus lockdown is more severe are seeing significant increases in BitTorrent traffic. From an average of around 20 million daily visits to websites offering torrents in the last few months, traffic has now spiked to more than 25 million on average per day.

And once people are there, they’re not just browsing and leaving. Torrent downloads worldwide have increased by a third in the last month, with around 16 million files downloaded every single day.

Country-by-country complicity

As you might expect, not every country is equally willing to try and chance their arm at torrenting files. In one week in early March, the number of downloads in Italy from torrent websites increased from 592,000 to 810,000, say TorrentFreak. An extra 90,000 people turned to torrents in a single week in Italy, where the entire country has been locked down.

The same picture can be seen in Spain, which has also suffered tremendously due to covid-19. When Spain announced its country-wide lockdown in mid-March, the number of downloads spiked from around two million to nearer three million. The number of IP addresses accessing major torrent websites also nearly doubled in the same period.

Diversity is expensive

The reasoning behind people taking solace in torrents is obvious: there are so many legitimate streaming services that it can cost a small fortune to subscribe to them all and get a varied diet of content.

While the share of UK households with a subscription to the four most popular streaming services has increased by nearly 10 percentage points in the last year, many people are having to pay to double-up in order to see the content they want.

Exclusivity deals keep certain programmes on one streaming service and away from another – and suddenly the cost adds up. The average household in the United States that has any kind of streaming subscription doesn’t just stop at one: they have three or four, according to analysis by Ovum Research. In the UK, it’s two or three streaming services.

And at a time when the economy is tanking, people are losing their jobs or being furloughed, and there’s little assurance when we’ll return to normality again, people focus on the basics, rather than the nice-to-have things. Yet people want to remain entertained, keeping their spirits up in times of crisis.

As a result we’re seeing people taking alternative methods to keep themselves entertained – but don’t cost them money. Of course, it’s a self-defeating approach. Media industries across the globe are struggling with the abandonment of advertisement from their businesses – money that they need to keep earning in order to make shows. Torrenting now may provide some relief, but avoiding payment just means there’ll be fewer shows to choose from in the future.

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