Christmas is a time for family, which by extension makes it a period for sitting back and watching a lot of movies and TV. Maybe that’s why Sony released “The Interview” on Christmas Day. That controversial flick will set you back $6 to rent or $12 to buy (unless you join the legions torrenting it), but the folks at Popcorn Time believe you should be able to watch what you like for free — and now they’ve added a VPN to the streaming service which is Hollywood’s worst nightmare.
Popcorn Time, for those who aren’t aware, is a service that lets you stream a tonne of top films and TV shows to your computer for free. It uses unlicensed torrents on the internet for content, which naturally raises a gamut of legal issues. The original service closed down earlier this year in response to those questions, but a number of anonymous groups resurrected the project, the most notable of which is probably Popcorntime.io, which added an optional VPN to its desktop service today.
VPNs, which essentially route a device’s internet through a different country, are seen as an important addition to Popcorn Time. Some users in Germany were fined for using Popcorn Time earlier this year, so a VPN could help movie fans avoid repercussions for their borderline-legal viewing activity — which we at TechCrunch do not condone, by the way.
Mega caveat though, users will have to pay for it.
VPN.ht is priced at $4.99 per month, but Popcorntime.io users can get it for $1 for the first month after which they can cancel. Alternatively they can pay $3.99 per month on a yearly deal.
Currently in ‘Alpha’, the addition is all well and good, but we can’t help thinking that there are some issues. The cost of free is a primary appeal of Popcorn Time, thus it is unclear whether many users will pony up $30-plus for a VPN service, even though it may be beneficial to them.
Those likely to use VPNs have probably already bought them. Anecdotally, folks shopping for a VPN tend to take their time and weigh up their options from the crowded field. Integrating with Popcorn Time may well give VPN.ht an initial sales boost, but I’m not sure it will make a sizable difference to the service or Popcorn Time’s userbase in the long-term.
A freemium option — offering a free first month of use or a limited monthly service like Tunnelbear — would have been a more impacting addition for both sides.
VPN.ht does support Bitcoin and a range of payment options, but the fact remains that asking people to get their credit cards out — even just for a few dollars — is enough of barrier to deter many.
Beyond the VPN, Popcorntime.io is also promising to revamp its existing Android app with “all kinds of amazing features” soon. You’ll want to keep an eye on the project if that sets your Christmas bells aringing.