- Telegram introduced Channels in 2015 where users can share videos, other content for broadcasting.
- Now, Telegram Channels are used by users to watch their favourite movies and shows for free.
- Some Telegram channels have links that stream Netflix, Amazon, and Voot videos.
Do you know an app where you can watch the latest TV shows and movies? Maybe you are thinking Netflix. Or Amazon Prime. Or Apple TV+. But there are hundreds of thousands of users in India who think of Telegram. It is not legal. Though that is no bar for many who use the chat app and its feature called Channels to access latest movies and shows.
In a way, in India, particularly with the younger internet users, teens and those who watch stuff on mobile phones, Telegram has replaced torrenting when it comes to pirating movies and shows.
These users have either not used a torrent app or network, or are just more comfortable using chat apps. For such users Telegram has become the go to app to pirate content.
A media professional recently saw her Netflix subscription expire. But she wanted to watch a movie I'm Thinking of Ending Things. A few chats with friends pointed her to Telegram. Soon she discovered a channel on Telegram, found the link of the movie she wanted to watch, and streamed it from there.
There are many like her. Shrutika Sahu, a final year literature student says that she watches shows like Asur and Mirzapur on Telegram channels. She says the process can be a bit tedious at times because often some channels offer only one episode. The trick is to find a channel that has all episodes of a series. But then it is all free so the hassle is apparently worth for some.
Tanyia Gaba, a dentist, who is currently spending time in quarantine, too is making use of a Telegram channel to watch shows she wants to see. "I am currently watching Bandish Bandits on Telegram. I have also watched Sadak 2 and Shakuntala Devi on Telegram," she says.
This is pirating of copyrighted content, sharing of which can be considered illegal. But many Telegram users, just like the internet users who utilise torrents and file sharing websites, don't realise it. Though some do. When India Today Tech asked a Telegram user, who streams shows and movies on the chat app, if he knew whether this was legal or illegal, he said, "100 per cent illegal."
The reason why Telegram has become popular among pirates is because of its Channels feature and how the app allows people to share large files. Telegram is a messaging app used by people for its privacy, sharing capabilities and cloud-based encrypted storage. Telegram has an option to create large groups with bot services for easy management and large channels that can be used by subscribers to get updates.
WhatsApp allows users to upload media as documents up to 100 MB whereas, in Telegram, that size is capped at 1.5 GB.
Using Telegram to share pirated or stolen material violates the app's terms and services, which clearly states the company has a zero-tolerance policy. But the encryption means it is nearly impossible for the app to find out what people are sharing.
Telegram app also has a feature called Global Search that enables users to reach all of its channels and groups. The shows and movies are shared through Channels. Channels feature was introduced in 2015 for broadcasting messages to large audiences, as Telegram put it at that time.
Channels can have an unlimited number of members, they can be public with a permanent URL and each post in a channel has its view counter.
"Channels were brought in to broadcast messages and videos. The app also has an option to create large groups with bot services for easy management and large channels which can be used by subscribers to get updates," says Anant, a tech and gaming enthusiast. "This, however, has brought about an increase in sharing of otherwise copyrighted content including movies and TV series, simply by searching the name of the TV show. There are several channels where you can simply press play and watch the entire show without license requirements or downloads."
Vibhuti, a final year advertising student who just got her Netflix subscription renewed says it is "not fair" for the creators of shows or the users of OTT platforms who pay to watch content online.