Downloading Movies From Torrents: Still Popular?

Here’s everything about downloading movies from Torrents being active and popular still:

Torrent sites today actually have more account holders and active users than ever before.

Despite that, activity is down, and especially when it comes to downloading movies, it’s nowhere near as popular as it used to be.

Best estimates put daily movie downloads at about 5 million, down from a peak of 20+ million.

So if you want to learn all about why Torrents downloads have gone down and felt less popular these days, then you have come to the right place.

Let’s get right into it!

Downloading Movies From Torrents: Still Popular? (All Info)

What Is a Torrent?

woman watching movies from her laptop

Let’s start this conversation with a little clarity.

What actually is a torrent?

In essence, it’s a mechanism for sharing data online.

By and large, torrent sharing works through a specific protocol known as BitTorrent. It’s a type of file and means of distribution.

There are other kinds of torrents, but they’re a lot less common and don’t really matter for this discussion.

BitTorrent is interesting in how it works.

The principle is based on the idea of breaking a file into very small pieces (called bits).

Those bits are then downloaded directly, much like any other download on the internet.

What makes a BitTorrent download special is that you need a lot of bits to build a file (or in this case a movie), and you don’t have to get all of those bits from the same source.

If you download an email, the entire email is coming from one place: your email server.

So your computer and the server establish a link and exchange information.

It’s direct. It’s simple. It’s easy to follow.

With a BitTorrent, you’re downloading tiny pieces of the movie (or whatever file is being shared) from different users.

This comes with a few ramifications.

First, when there are a lot of users sharing the same file, downloads can be very fast.

This is because, for most people, download speeds are greater than upload speeds.

So, you can download a bit very quickly from anyone, but they might not be able to upload those same bits very quickly.

By distributing the upload across many users, you overcome that limitation and speed up the process.

Additionally, the process of a BitTorrent makes it difficult to pin down exactly who is sharing what.

When BitTorrents was a new and popular thing, this created legal ambiguity.

It was hard for courts to really accuse people of piracy when they were only sharing a few fractions of a second of a movie with other users.

That ambiguity has since been resolved, and pirating movies via torrents is definitely illegal.

But for a while, BitTorrents created a bit of a loophole when it comes to downloading movies for free.

How Many People Used to Download Movies With Torrents?

Man choosing movies on his tablet device.

I’m going to get to how many people still use torrents to download movies in a bit, but I think it’s worth taking a moment to build a context around this.

How popular were torrent downloads at their peak?

Well, it’s a method that rose to popularity very quickly, and it then faded just as fast.

In the heyday, BitTorrent was the most popular resource, and it had up to 27 million active users each day.

Another resource, 𝜇Torrent had almost as many users.

Combined, the two had 150 million total users (not the same thing as active users).

How much of that was for movies?

It’s hard to say exactly, but in total, torrents were responsible for around $10 billion in lost revenue every year.

How Many People Still Download Movies From Torrents?

woman typing on her laptop keyboard

Here’s the interesting thing.

There is definitely less internet traffic across torrenting sites these days.

Once upon a time, you could find just about anything.

These days, it’s a lot harder to find any particular download, and it’s because fewer people participate.

Despite that, there are about 170 million torrent accounts.

The overall number of users is up.

On top of that, there are roughly 28 million active BitTorrent users in a given day.

That number is also up.

So, what’s the deal? Why does it feel less popular?

There are a couple of reasons.

First, the market share of torrenting has gone down.

There may be more users today, but there are more users across the whole internet.

In 2013, there were fewer people online than there are today.

So as a percentage of internet activity, torrenting is way down.

Second, individual users spend a lot less time, on average, torrenting as compared to years past.

The total amount of bandwidth used on torrenting is down from the peak.

A bunch of people still have their accounts, and they even use the accounts on a somewhat regular basis.

But the days of constantly having a dozen or more downloads running every single day are largely past.

Even with more users, there is less activity, and that’s why the process feels dead compared to how it used to be.

How Do People Access Movies These Days if Not From Torrents? (3 Ways)

Young lady on the floor watching a movie comfortably on her laptop.

Actually, I only half answered the previous question.

I explained how torrent sites have more users and less activity, but I didn’t talk about movies specifically.

These days, people use torrents to download audiobooks more often than they download movies.

Read that again.

Even though there are still lots of torrent downloads, they don’t target movies nearly as often as they used to, and I think you already know why.

Streaming services completely took over.

So, let’s talk about how people prefer to get their movies these days, and it will really shed light on the fall of torrenting—especially for movies.

#1 Streaming

Woman online streaming a movie on her smartphone.

By far, the most common way to watch a movie today is through streaming.

In fact, watching movies online is substantially more popular and common today than it was during the peak of torrent downloads around 2013.

In fact, those stats probably won’t surprise you.

Back in 2013, you still had a DVD player, didn’t you?

Now, can you remember the last time you actually watched a DVD?

That’s how the general trend has gone.

Streaming services became very popular and very convenient, and that’s where we are today.

One thing worth noting is that privacy is alive and well.

Streaming is the most popular way to watch a movie, but there is plenty of unlawful streaming these days, so let’s talk about legal and illegal streaming for a moment.

Legal Streaming

Legal streaming is all of the stuff you recognize at a glance.

Netflix, Amazon video (or is it Prime Video these days?), Hulu, Disney+, and the many, many other names in the business that might not be quite as recognizable are all legal streaming services. 

You know how this works.

You pay a subscription fee, and you get to watch as much content as you want.

What might not be obvious is just how effective these streaming services are.

I told you earlier that Bittorrent was the most popular torrent site and peaked at 27 million users per day.

Netflix alone is estimated to have around 70 million daily users.

Disney+ is in the same ballpark, and Hulu has about half as many users.

In all, legal video streaming dwarfs the popularity of torrenting.

Illegal Streaming

As for illegal streaming, it’s a lot harder to get accurate numbers, but it is alive and well.

For the most part, there are two ways to illegally stream content.

You can use a site that doesn’t have permission to stream the videos you watch, or you can access a legal streaming site without paying.

Let me rephrase that.

I’m not advocating for piracy. It can get you in a lot of trouble.

I’m merely pointing out how people go about it.

So, a pirate could successfully stream content in an illegal manner by using a free site or using a paid site without paying.

Even though hard numbers are difficult to find, a couple of estimates can really shape how popular illegal streaming is.

The global revenue for legal streaming in 2021 came in at about $50 billion.

The estimated revenue lost to illegal streaming came in somewhere between $30 billion and $70 billion.

If you take an average on that, it would be right at $50 billion.

That means that pirating is far more popular today than it was a decade ago, even though legal streaming is also far more popular than pirating was a decade ago.

Both sides of streaming have grown a lot.

#2 Direct Downloads

beautiful young woman browsing on her phone while relaxing on the couch

Outside of streaming, it’s still possible to directly download a movie.

On the legal side of things, Apple and Amazon hold a huge market share.

You can purchase a digital movie on either platform and download it.

You can also stream your digital purchases, so it cuts both ways.

But when you download a purchase, you can watch it without internet access.

Illegal direct downloads also exist (but I’m not linking the sites for obvious reasons).

Again, it’s really difficult to get good numbers on how often this happens, but it is easy to explain why illegal movie downloads are less popular than streaming.

It boils down to three things.

First, streaming is convenient.

We all know that, and it’s why the Netflix model dominates.

Second, downloading things to your computer from a shady site is risky.

You never know if you’re getting the movie you want to watch or a virus.

Most people don’t want to deal with that particular form of roulette.

Third, there is legal ambiguity when it comes to watching pirated content.

Technically, it’s not illegal to watch a pirated movie.

The law is broken during the act of piracy (which is the distribution of the movie), and that creates a weird legal gray area.

But if you download a movie illegally, the grayness is resolved.

You definitely committed piracy, and you’re legally culpable.

So, downloads come with more legal risks.

#3 Torrents

A smiling woman in headphones sits in the dark watching a movie on her laptop in the kitchen with her pet Jack Russell Terrier on her lap.

As for torrents, they’re still a thing, but as you know, their popularity has waned.

The best estimate that I can give you is that around 5 million people still download movie torrents on a daily basis.

That’s not a tiny number, but it’s a shadow of how things used to be.

By and large, downloading movies from a torrent site is going to be illegal these days.

If you really nitpick the law, there might be a few exceptions out there, but major movie studios aren’t using torrents to distribute their content.

They’re using Netflix (and other major streaming sites).

In general, you can assume that movies on torrent sites are pirated.