Transcript: S02E06, ‘Kodi Addons: The New Pirate Superpower?’

November 25, 2016

These subtitles are for S02E06 of STEAL THIS SHOW. Many thanks to the volunteer who produced these!


Jamie King: And now our interview with one of the people behind TV ADDONS, one of the larger underground repositories for the Kodi media system. With tens of millions of users, TV ADDONS is a major force for unauthorised access to media and in many ways it represents the future wave of piracy that’s moving away from the Bittorrent ecosystem. So without further ado, here is TV ADDONS’ Eleazar who requested his voice be altered to protect his identity.

Jamie King: For a start thanks very much for being on the show I really appreciate it.

Eleazar: Thank you.

Jamie King: Maybe we should first just get you to introduce yourself and just explain who you are, what you are doing and why your voice is masked.

Eleazar: Well my name is Eleazar. I am one of the staff at TV ADDONS. It’s a team effort. I’m more on the webmaster type of side. I write guides and things like that. Why I am masking my voice is because in general I like to consider myself a privacy advocate and I am very concerned about online privacy.

Jamie King: The reason that you are worried about your privacy in this case is that something about the nature of TV ADDONS — do you consider it legal or illegal and if it’s illegal, why is it illegal?

Eleazar: The truth is the law is open to interpretation. It’s a hobby. It’s something that we do for fun, so it’s not something that I would want to get into a legal battle with proving is this legal or not. As far as I am concerned, personally, we have nothing to do with the distribution of content. Whether we exist or not, the content that we are accessing would be readily available online. At the same time the people that are pirating this content don’t necessarily like us because when people watch that content through Kodi they are not actually getting any type of ad revenue so we are not really a friend to the pirate community in my opinion.

Jamie King: Ha! I see, because when people watch a stream and video files through Kodi it strips effectively the advertising container.

Eleazar: Well firstly when we watch streaming content there’s ads all over it so that’s how they make money and then furthermore those sites use hosts which are called cyberlockers like what Megaupload was — and those cyberlockers have their own advertisements and/or premium membership offers. Going through us circumvents all advertising and just grabs the content so that you can watch it without it being beneficial in any way to the host.

Jamie King: Very interesting. Is it just that you think the pirate community doesn’t like you or that you know that they don’t like you? Have people been in touch with you about that?

Eleazar: Well I’m definitely certain that they don’t like us because what happens is that Kodi addons are meant to access or to interface with any type of online streaming website. Addons have been independently developed, so depending on what the developer wants to access, it could be YouTube or it could be Hulu or it could be a site like Primewire or a site like NHL.com right or any of these; they change their coding to break the addon and that’s specifically being done because Kodi addons are causing a spike in server load. That server will cost them money in bandwidth which they have to cover costs for. There was actually one cyberlocker which specifically stated it was because of Kodi. A fairly large one that closed about a year ago. They put a message on their site which said that due to the traffic being brought on by Kodi addons, they were unable to maintain profitability and farewell.

Jamie King: And that’s you effectively. I mean you’re the central repository for addons for Kodi.

Eleazar: Well we’re not a repository. We have a repository, which is our community repository. Most of the addons are in the individual developers’ repositories, which they retain full control over.

Jamie King: Ah yeah sorry. What I meant was is that you are effectively a kind of clearinghouse or hub. A place people discover these add ons.

Eleazar: We are a community website and a community website where people can submit any type of development or open source software or anything like that. Collaborative coding. We don’t specifically target any type of grey market or black market. We are just open. There are Kodi addons that will allow you to watch sites like Earthcam.com where you can see video cameras from around the world like the Eiffel Tower or Time Square. That’s a very popular addon we have and that’s a completely legitimate addon we have. Does Earthcam necessarily like it? Probably not because it’s again causing their bandwidth to be increased, but it’s not circumventing anything on their site. It’s just displaying it in a video on demand interface.

Jamie King: Yeah I get it. Just to back up a bit, maybe you could talk us through for listeners who don’t know what the structure is of Kodi: what does it do and what do TV ADDONS plugins do that are made available via TV ADDONS, if that’s the way to put it? How do those two things work together?

Eleazar:  The first thing that I would like to make clear just out of respect: Kodi is run by a non-profit foundation called the XBMC Foundation. It’s one of the biggest open-source software projects in existence in terms of code contributions. It’s been around for many many years — I believe eight years right now, I’m not certain. The XBMC Foundation, who are the official Kodi team that develops the media player, does not like us. They don’t like these addons. They are developing a media player software that’s meant to be used to view all media or media you own the rights to. The addons are just a feature of it. It’s not even just a main feature. It’s another feature that exists and it’s a feature that’s by the third party community and has become very popular.

Jamie King: As I remember — I’m digging into my very distant memory here  —  it started as a way to use your Xbox as a media centre. Do I remember wrong that you had to root your Xbox in the first place in order to install that? Because I think I remember there was at the very least a violation of the Microsoft terms of use. It probably just voided the warranty or something like that?

Eleazar: Exactly.

Jamie King: I think it was one of those situations where people would mod their Xboxes in order to run pirate games?

Eleazar: Something like that. It would have allowed you to play pirated games. It would have allowed you to do all sorts of stuff like that. The people that made the mod chips had nothing to do with the distribution of pirate games. Microsoft definitely didn’t like modchips. Apple doesn’t like when people jailbreak their phones and install third party apps either, but jailbreaking has nothing to do with piracy. It just has to do with allowing you to install what you want on your device.

Jamie King: The first time I saw I saw someone using XBMC was actually Peter Sunde, the Pirate Bay guy, and I think — and I don’t want to be mean to the Kodi guys, but I suspect that vast majority of people who have a large collection of digital media like on their hard drives have not converted most of that stuff from Blu Ray disks or DVDs.

Eleazar: Well if you say that you have to consider that if they download through torrents or if they have stuff on their hard drive they are not using Kodi to download that. Kodi is just playing it. It’s not as involved in accessing content, as addons are using Kodi to access the content, which they don’t like so much because it brings them closer to a grey area. They definitely try to make it as hard as possible to use addons. They don’t want bigger <unclear> they want their media player, which is a great media player. It does a lot of things, and can be used for a lot of things. And again it’s open source, so Kodi is used to maintain hotels’ Video On Demand systems. You can make it do different things through add ons, not just things that are for this purpose. You know — you can program it so you can watch your home security cameras through Kodi, and things like that.

Jamie King: So Kodi provides the infrastructure and then many of the addons that you find via TV ADDONS utilise that infrastructure that Kodi provides, and links the user to feeds that are online – the are file hosts, Megaupload, OpenLoad. What are the big ones now?

Eleazar: A big one before was Putlocker. That doesn’t exist anymore. There’s a lot; I don’t really recall offhand. Kodi is scraping. You’re not importing a list of links into Kodi and playing. The addons are coded to be able to interface and scrape, the way a human would. The code is built so it can look into the menu structure of a site and then visualise each page of a site and scrape the page’s content. Kodi is providing the basis for the functionality that allows an addon to interface with in order to work.

Jamie King: So what are the main plugins people are using now to do this?

Eleazar: There are many popular ones. They come; they go. It’s ever evolving. I can’t really say that one is more popular because the truth is we don’t maintain statistics about things like this. We are very concerned about user privacy. We actually have a policy against addons tracking users or keeping anything like that data. So I can’t say which for certain are most popular.

Jamie King: But I get the feeling that, I’m no expert, but Exodus is one that is popular at the moment. Is that right?

Eleazar: Yes that one is popular. There are different ones though. People typically use a diverse number of add ons. I’m always discovering new content, because it’s always changing. It’s just accessing what is available online. Many add ons just scrape one site, whereas other addons are multiscraper addons, which scrape multiple sites at the same time.

Jamie King: Yeah like Stream All The Sources (SALTS) is another one I saw right?

Eleazar: Yeah exactly that one will scrape multiple sites.

Jamie King: You know I’m not a massive user of Kodi, but one thing I have observed is that maybe it’s better currently with the current plugins that are available are better for accessing more recent material. TV shows which have been released recently are more popular and the same goes for movies. Is that right or am I just missing…

Eleazar: I wouldn’t say so. I would say that what happens is the addons they have to access their listings from somewhere. For example a streaming addon for movies or television would access listings through IMDB. So on one hand it scrapes IMDB for the listings of movies or whatever and then once the user chooses what they want to watch it scrapes other websites which are linked to other types of content and after that it <unclear> them. It accesses the video player on the cyberlocker like Movpod or Megaupload for example.

Jamie King: So in a way, it’s quite similar to how Popcorn time worked, except that Popcorn Time used torrents. They are both using sources that are already out there and bringing them together to create a service…

Eleazar: No, no, no, because Popcorn Time is a piracy app. The only access is pirated content…for the most part pirated content. Torrents aren’t piracy in my opinion, but if you are accessing tracker like The Pirate Bay then it is piracy related. Popcorn Time only accesses certain torrents. It’s not just any torrent in the world. It was specifically these movie torrents. And what Popcorn Time also does is Popcorn Time facilitates the distribution of piracy because when a user accesses content through Popcorn Time they are actually reseeding or resharing, because they are effectively turning into a server that distributes what they are watching to other torrent users, the same way a torrent client would. We are leeching off these sources when you are using Kodi addons. Popcorn Time is making the user actively involved in the distribution. Popcorn Time is active participation in piracy. The people who develop Popcorn Time are helping piracy exist. We are not helping piracy exist. Nothing are are doing contributes to the piracy with distribution, whereas Popcorn Time is actually distributing. So Popcorn Time benefits Yify Torrents, whereas we…

Jamie King: Yeah so maybe it contributed to the urgency of getting Yify Torrents taken down.

Eleazar: Yeah so what happens is Yify Torrents is a torrent tracker so the more people watching it through Popcorn Time the more servers they have, the more they are distributing this content. So Popcorn Time helps the distribution of piracy whereas we have nothing to do with that.

Jamie King: Yeah I get it. So why do you think attention has moved from torrents to Kodi and to TV ADDONS, to some of the more popular plugins on Kodi. What’s changed?

Eleazar: Well I wouldn’t say the attention has moved. In no world will Kodi ever be as popular as Popcorn Time or torrents, because those are just much larger applications and are far easier for users. You download Popcorn Time and you can watch right away, whereas with Kodi they have to configure this that and the other. It’s not as intuitive or as simple as an app.

Jamie King: Can you give me any idea of how many people are using Kodi with a plugin like Exodus at the moment?

Eleazar: Well we couldn’t tell you at all in terms of specific addons. We don’t track that. We don’t allow developers. The reason we don’t allow developers to track that is firstly we are very concerned with user privacy, developer privacy. Everyone’s privacy is our utmost concern. Our greatest concern is privacy. And at the same time we don’t want to create a competitive type of environment. People who do this do this because it’s a learning experience. They enjoy learning how to code in Python. Developing your coding skills. It’s not really about piracy. It’s more about accessing content. It’s about honing your skills. Doing something cool. You know, learning different things. We don’t want it to be a competitive place where one addon wants to be biggest. The add ons really don’t want to be the biggest. Some developers make their addons specifically to be difficult to use to avoid it being the biggest. The one that becomes the biggest then the site ceases access and breaks the functionality.

Jamie King: I thought I noticed that when I was looking, I can’t remember where I saw the statistic on TVADDONS.com, but I thought I saw at one point a plugin that had maybe it was just overall 20 plus million downloads of a plugin. Does that fit in with…

Eleazar: That is just an estimate of how many devices have connected to our repository server. What happens is that when Kodi turns on it pings the server to check for updates, the git source, wherever the developer hosts their addons. So when it pings that server it tracks how many unique visitors have pinged the server as if it was website hits, but all you get is that number of users. We don’t get any specific information on those users, not even location or anything like that. We just get how many unique devices connected to this server per day and yeah the estimate is like around 20 million, but the number could be slightly off.

Jamie King: I see but that’s a significant number of devices that are pinging the Github.

Eleazar: Well again it’s not necessarily devices accessing sketchy or grey content. It could be just you know watching totally legitimate content or not even watching content at all. They just have add ons and those are checking for updates when the device is on.

Jamie King: So it’s a maximum potential in the number of people actively using Kodi for piracy is definitely something lower. I think I saw 22 million or something lower.

Eleazar: Well again, we consider ourselves an open-source community where people can collaborate and contribute what they want. Many of our most popular add ons have nothing to do with piracy and don’t access to pirated sources at all.

Jamie King: Interesting, so what’s an example of some of the most popular add ons that are totally legit.

Eleazar: There’s an addon that accesses BBC iplayer or ITV. That’s legitimate content source.

Jamie King: You’re only supposed to access that if you’re in Britain right, I mean…

Eleazar: We’re not providing any iplayer VPN functionality or anything like that. Then there’s an addon that accesses different college’s YouTube channels and it displays a listing of all college football teams and you can watch game replays. That’s accessing YouTube, which is also another licenced source. There’s a popular addon for USTVnow, which is a licenced provider of free television to Americans living overseas, so if you’re an expat living overseas, you can get basic television channels for free from US TV Now. That’s fully licenced and that’s one of our most popular add ons.

Jamie King: Are any artists yet, independent creators using an addon or add ons or piggybacking on other people’s addons to distribute independent content?

Eleazar: Do you mean licenced content?

Jamie King: Yeah, yeah, so any filmmakers or any podcasters?

Eleazar: There’s a ton of little ones. We don’t want people to come along and say “how can I make my podcast popular through the use of Kodi addons”. We don’t want our site to be used for commercial purposes like that. So yeah, they can distribute, but if someone comes along with a vested interest with a YouTube channel that no one has ever heard of and starts trying to promote their addon on our site like it’s the biggest thing on Earth, then we won’t allow that to happen. We will allow them to fairly distribute a fair amount in the same way that everyone else does, but we’re not looking to be a source of <unclear> for people.

Jamie King: I see, so you’re not looking to do what the Pirate Bay did and feature certain independent artists so they could use it as a way of getting exposure.

Eleazar: No. It’s better that they release their add on to the community. If users decide they want to use it, they use it and the more users use it the more people <unclear> about it, but we’re not showcasing someone’s content source to try to bring them commercial success.

Jamie King: They might not be a commercial success though. A lot of people who are distributing stuff through Pirate Bay, I don’t think they were making a lot of money. I think it was about reaching the audience. You know what strikes me as interesting about that is that when the Pirate Bay first distributed my film, you know it was really really valuable not really in terms of money but in terms of access an audience and changing people’s minds about what piracy meant.

Eleazar: OK well there’s the thing. Say you are a filmmaker, you have a website. You would have to be hosting your streaming content on your website for Kodi to be able to access it, OK, so the addon will only be accessing your website’s content. It’s not as owners would be showcasing a specific movie on their listing when we would have no ability to do that.

Jamie King: So it would be more like Exodus or one of the big plugins doing it really. That would really be the way to go.

Eleazar: Well no, because they don’t really have anything to do with the content either. They’re just streaming websites.

Jamie King: I mean they could if they wanted to. It’s the same thing with Popcorn Time. Popcorn Time has got a little stressed now with different sources going down and stuff, but they had a plan to distribute independent content because I think they felt they had this huge audience which was looking at mostly Hollywood films, mostly…

Eleazar: We don’t really want to be involved in content. We’re developing code. The only thing we distribute is code. You know we don’t look at the content, we just see if it’s available online and if someone wants to make an interface with it then go ahead. Exodus is just code, there’s no movie listing in it at all.

Jamie King: Right but that’s a decision isn’t it? That’s a decision. That’s like Facebook saying “it’s the algorithm” or just Google saying “it’s the algorithm.” That’s a human decision to do that. When you get in a situation where you’ve got say somewhere less than twenty million people using devices to access feeds of content, at that point you know there would be a lot of artists, a lot of people who don’t have the access to the big studios. This is my personal goal to <unclear>. How does the little creator get their voice out into the world and that can be really important. It can important politically. It can help people like you because they can change people’s opinions about intellectual property and so on and so forth. It can do a lot of things and I guess you don’t have an appetite for becoming an active participant in changing the kind of things people are looking at.

Eleazar: Well I think the thing that people like about TV ADDONS is that we try to stay very neutral. Developers aren’t trying to push specific agendas. When people are trying to push their own political agenda in their addon it’s frowned upon. We really don’t want to be involved in the distribution or making content popular. That’s up to whatever the content creator or whoever is hosting the content. That’s what they do.

Jamie King: That’s really interesting though isn’t it. Let me just draw you out on that. Again you know I’m not trying to say you should think the same way as me. There’s no reason for that, but decisions have been made that predetermine what sort of content is going to come out through the plugins. It’s not just the best content survives and the weak content dies. It’s not. It’s the content that’s been marketed and paid for by big studios. Like if Exodus was to say: “OK on the Exodus boot screen or your homepage, we’re now going to list four independent movies per month from filmmakers who would like to share their work”. Free content from filmmakers who want to share.

Eleazar: We don’t have a problem with that, but that’s also passive. It’s not the content creator coming on and trying to bombard users with their content.

Jamie King: That’s basically what I’m proposing. Why not use one of these fantastically popular plugins as a way to expose people to stuff that hasn’t gone through the system.

Eleazar: That would be up to the individual developer. If they wanted to do that, they could, but I don’t think they are interested either. They just want to develop stuff that can access this stuff that has nothing to do with them. Dealing with content is a headache you know. People are asking to put their movie on and all types of different stuff like that. We’re not your movie site. We’re not a TV site. We are a site that distributes open source coding that people can use through Kodi or if they want to use them as a learning tool to learn how to write code. We don’t think about what the code accesses after.

Jamie King: So have you had any legal challenges or have there been any approaches so far from Hollywood, the entertainment lobbies? Has anyone approached you to tell you they want you to stop doing something or….?

Eleazar: No no. Well there is one addon allows users to contribute their own links to content. We received a DMCA notice once and we removed the content that was requested to be removed.

Jamie King: Well that’s pretty good so far.

Eleazar: We respect the law. We respect the DMCA. We’re not actively enabling any type of distribution of pirated content.

Jamie King: In terms of TV ADDONS and Kodi, how do you see things developing? There have been big changes in the torrent world. Some of the big sites have gone down. There’s just a few left. Extratorrent has recently had a few domains seized. I’m just interested in given that the entertainment lobbies really are making efforts to clean out what they see as sources of loss of earnings. Do you see any of these changes affecting the basic infrastructure that TV ADDONS plugins, some of them, are using? And what other changes do you see on the horizon, good or bad?

Eleazar: Well the way you say that question, I don’t really see Kodi addons coming into play, but I see it in a different way. I think that streaming content, accessing content, through cyberlockers is more attractive to users because, comparative to torrents, if you access content from a cyberlocker you are not engaging in any illegal activity, because there is nothing against downloading content that’s available online, but when you engage in downloading torrents you are actively participating in the distribution, because when you are downloading a torrent you are also sharing that same torrent with other users who are downloading because of the peer to peer nature of it, so I think that peer to peer isn’t so attractive because if you’re downloading a torrent you are breaking the law, if you’re sharing that torrent’s content and most users don’t configure their client to not support uploads. They have no clue they are distributing content and that’s why people get <unclear> from torrents. There are fines and legal letters, because they are distributing content. They are not only watching, they are hosting it as well.

Jamie King: Yeah, but what I was getting at was that many of the file lockers, many of them have come and gone. Big ones have been taken offline, obviously Megaupload was one of the biggest file lockers. Kimdotcom is under a large legal case at the moment. I’m sure you’ve heard about it. Do you see the future of TV ADDONS being affected at all by those struggles or how do you see the general infrastructural situation.

Eleazar: Our add ons access anything that’s online, so so long as something is online we will be able to access it. When I look at cyberlockers I think think if you are operating a cyberlocker you should be doing so within the domain of the law. You should be respecting the laws, the DMCA, you should not be trying to promote yourself as a piracy host. Megaupload likely <unclear> conversations. They discussed uploading their own content to the servers just to make their site more popular, so like that you know incentivising piracy. If the cyberlockers do things like that, they are not going to last, but if they do things by the law. YouTube is a cyberlocker. YouTube exists.

Jamie King: Yes well YouTube started off by doing that as well. I remember there being some chatlogs of YouTube executives talking about uploading copyrighted content in order to drive traffic to the site. They stopped doing it later on, but they definitely did it.

Eleazar: What users submit isn’t necessarily your responsibility, as long as you follow the DMCA. Take it down if there is a complaint. Cyberlockers shouldn’t have a problem, but that honestly has nothing to do with us, because the cyberlockers, again as I said, don’t like Kodi add ons.

Jamie King: I guess what I’m driving at is that I think there is a significant attrition going on with torrent indexes and while I’m sure a lot of activity has moved to private trackers, what I’m driving at is, do you see a similar type of attrition going on with cyberlockers file transfer hosts or do you think there is something about them that is more nimble? I suppose one of the things you’re saying is if they have a significant non-infringing use and they follow the DMCA that for now they are kind of protected.

Eleazar: Well personally I like torrents. It’s a hassle and you’re breaking the law when you use them. People don’t want to break the law when they are sharing content and get letters and that  sort of thing, so obviously there is going to be a trend towards people not using that, you know people don’t want to contribute. And in terms of cyberlockers and stuff like that most of them offer premium memberships I believe, but I don’t know much about that. There are no really underground cyberlockers.

Jamie King: In terms of the boxes that we are seeing and you mentioned this before we started that Kodi is very popular in the UK. I think one of the reasons for that is that people were able to buy these “fully loaded” Kodi boxes over eBay. I don’t know if they still are, but I think those are available in Britain and people became pretty aware of them. Someone even told my Mum about one.

Eleazar: Let me make something clear on that. Both TV ADDONS and, as far as I know, the official Kodi team are strongly against the selling of preloaded boxes. Firstly these sellers are offering things that aren’t true. Kodi add ons aren’t necessarily so stable. It’s not like Netflix. It goes up; it goes down; there’s problems. You need to maintain it. You might have to reinstall it. So, firstly, by selling these add ons like that they are lying to their customers. They are making it sound like it’s super easy, when it’s not necessarily. Secondly they are making it so the customers knows nothing about our website or how to maintain Kodi or do anything like that. So if someone comes to our website and installs and configures Kodi. In that configuration process they learn a little about how it works and if they get home with a box that comes with add ons preinstalled, they do not learn how it works and they assume that we’re getting paid for these boxes that they are buying, which is not the case. We don’t want people to be making commercial money of this, we don’t want people selling preloaded boxes. We want users who enjoy contributing to the community and taking part in the conversation.

Jamie King: Yeah I get it. So it seems like it’s an interesting situation as the Kodi developers don’t like the plugin developers and a lot of the file lockers don’t like the TV ADDONS, the plugin developers and the plugin developers and the Kodi people don’t like the people building the preloaded boxes. So there is quite a lot of people not liking each other in this ecosystem.

Eleazar: That’s definitely true. We respect, we fully respect Team Kodi. There are some very dedicated people. Very smart people. Far smarter than me in terms of software development. They do good stuff. It’s years they have been working on this and you know they don’t want it to be looked at as a piracy tool. We don’t want people to look at it as a piracy tool either. We want people to understand that you can add a plugin, but that’s not the intended purpose of it. We don’t allow our people for example, something very popular in the UK, but which we are strongly against, is the selling of pirated streams. We don’t allow service to sell content that they do not  have the licence for. These paid IPTV services which the box sellers are selling to their customers, which we really strongly and actively denounce. We don’t want our community taken over by profiteers and these people who are doing these things are firstly very immoral. They are making money off stuff that they don’t own. It’s ridiculous that you would sell content that you did not create and yeah it turns this bad commercial vibe where everyone is trying to make money. We don’t want anything to do with that and it’s far more illegal to run that kind of service where you are distributing streams in exchange for money. So we don’t want our site to be associated with that. We don’t want <unclear> with that and we are very proactive in letting our users know that they should avoid those kind of services.

Jamie King: I didn’t know anything about these people doing paid IPTV. I guess you don’t want to mention the name of those people in the show. Is that something where they set up in some country and they copy… what do they do? They have a kind of paid filehost or how does that work?

Eleazar: From what I’ve seen, most of those people are in the UK. They normally have a couple of satellite dishes on their roof, and maybe they have their own internet connection or maybe two or three  internet connections coming into their home, maybe cable and DSL. And then they distribute it, host it from their internet connection. Distribute it online like that. So their users pay through a paid interface that requires a login or whatnot. You are dealing with pirated content. You don’t have the servers that Netflix and stuff like that has, so you’re charging people, you’re guaranteeing a level of service. They know that their service is bound to fail, just because they can’t have the type of infrastructures to support it. So as soon as they have enough users to make enough money, they end up either disappearing or stealing people’s money or whatnot because it’s not something they are able to maintain and I <unclear> from ignorance in the beginning if they think they can maintain it but it’s just not a winning venture.

Jamie King: Just so I understand, you’re saying that there are people in the UK who get a few DSL boxes or a few satellite dishes and pay for services themselves and then, what, they have like a stream duplicator so they can duplicate the streams in realtime?

Eleazar: Well they set up a streaming server in their house. They have a mirror that mirrors what they are streaming from their house to give it like some extra juice or bandwidth and then they have something mirroring it, like some other house, but they are not reliable services. If you have 100 people watching something, it takes a lot of power to power that and likely they are not able to.

Jamie King: That’s so interesting. I had no idea that was going on. I don’t know whether you know about this, in lots of cities in India there’s these groups of guys they call themselves “cable wallahs”, which just means “the cable guys”. What they do is they have a house, where they will have a couple of satellite dishes up and then they’ll have a little stack of DVD players and they’ll buy pirate DVDs and throw them on one after the other and then they wire up the neighbourhood to these ad-hoc piracy centres essentially and they go around and they collect revenue off everybody and this is the TV networks and so the entire network is essentially wired using the physical infrastructure and I mean these guys will have you know a thousand, two thousand customers wired up with wires running all through the streets going down to the pirate market to buy their DVDs and put them on.

Eleazar: That’s super illegal.

Jamie King: In India, I mean in these developing markets, there’s less oversight, less cooperation between them and Hollywood and so on. I guess that’s why they are getting away with it and the main rivalry was between one set of cable wallahs and another set, so they would come in at night and cut each other’s uplink or cut the optical cable that was running across someone’s roof and then a thousand people…

Eleazar: What you are describing to me seems like organised crime.

Jamie King: Yeah yeah yeah, I guess in terms of that kind of activity that you’re talking about in the UK about people setting up streaming servers in their home it’s not too different from what people are doing in the developing world.  You know it’s not like in terms of like it being a bit déclassé, not too sophisticated.

Jamie King: Just to wrap up in terms of listeners wanting to experiment with Kodi and TV ADDONS plugins where would you suggest to start? What’s your advice about the best way to get going?

Eleazar: Well if you go to our website, if you go to tvaddons.ag, the first step would be to install the Kodi media center, which is just a media player. Second step would be to configure our Fusion installer which just contains all the different add ons developer repositories so then you install whichever repository you want and then you enable whichever add on you want in their repository and use it for however long you want to use it.

Jamie King: And in terms of hardware that people can grab right now, what’s cool?

Eleazar: Well the easiest thing would be just to install it on your computer, but if you’re looking for something cool, more of a home theatre interface, the best piece of hardware is definitely the Nvidia Shield TV, but it’s also an expensive piece of hardware. You can also install Kodi for the Amazon Fire TV, if you want to. There’s a new box, which I haven’t seen. It’s a very good price point, maybe $69 from what I know? It’s called the the Xiaomi Mi Box. Xiaomi Mi is I believe the second biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world. It’s a huge company. You don’t necessarily hear about it much in the western world, but in Asia they are huge. They make all types of computers, consumer electronics, things like that. This is their Android TV device – the Xiaomi Mi Box.

Jamie King: OK, so it’s the Xiaomi Mi or the Fire TV or you can just install it straight on your computer and hack around to see how it works.

Eleazar: Well there’s a ton of other platforms that Kodi works on too. You can get a Raspberry Pi, which is a mini computer for hobbyists. You can also jailbreak your iPhone or iPad or Apple TV to install Kodi to it as well or you can install it to your Android phone or your Android tablet.

Jamie King: I get it, so this is a hacker ethos, not a commercialised ethos. This is about grabbing a box, installing it yourself, figuring out how it works and making it work the way you want.

Eleazar: It’s about having fun. Enjoying what you’re doing and not go spending your money. Spend your money and give it to charity if you want to support us. Do something like that. We don’t want some kind of shopping center giving Kodi addons this bad name by marketing it as a free TV product, because it’s not.

Jamie King: So in terms of exciting things coming down the line for TV ADDONS or plugins that you can see coming up or the way things are going, how do you see it going in terms of next year, the year after, what are we going to be seeing that’s exciting?

Eleazar: We have a new website coming because there’s a new version of Kodi coming out which will actually change the skin they use so the whole Kodi interface is going to change very shortly. If you want to be more towards the neutral side and not the licenced side of things and yeah our developers come from all over the place so you never know some guy’s a user and the next thing you know they learn how to code through watching YouTube videos or they take an online course or maybe someone listening to your show will come up with the next huge addon.

Jamie King: Well thanks for doing the interview. We really appreciate it.

Eleazar: Thank you very much. It’s much appreciated.

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