Exclusive: Amazon, Walmart pull streaming boxes linked to piracy

Two major online retailers have quietly removed dozens of listings for an Android-powered streaming device over concerns that the hardware allowed customers to stream pirated television signals.

Various models of the device, called a Superbox, were available through the websites of Amazon and Walmart for months, only to be pulled last week after Fierce Video reached out to each company with specific questions about the gadget.

A Superbox looks similar to a cable or satellite set-top box: Most are square devices that feature a clock and a few lights on the front, and the devices come bundled with a remote control or a wireless keyboard.

At first glance, the Superbox seems to be just another Android-powered streaming TV device. But what sets it apart from the rest is a special, preloaded app store that includes several unique television services. Those services include one called Blue TV, which offers access to hundreds of pirated live broadcast and cable channels, and another called Blue VOD that allows customers to stream thousands of films and TV shows that are illegally distributed over the Internet.

Several Facebook groups dedicated to sales and support for the Superbox devices make it clear what most customers are using the hardware for: Accessing things like live sports and movies that are typically only available with a cable or satellite subscription. In one recent post, a Facebook user named Hayden told customers they could watch every National Football League (NFL) game through Blue TV — a perk that is usually reserved for subscribers of the NFL's Sunday Ticket package on DirecTV.

One customer who spoke with Fierce Video through Facebook said they thought the Superbox hardware and services were legit because they purchased their device on Walmart's website. A review of the Walmart website late last month showed several models of the Superbox were available for sale, with prices ranging from $200 to $350. All the devices on Walmart's website were listed by third-party sellers, but in some cases, the product listing said shipping was fulfilled by Walmart itself.

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Walmart was not alone in selling the boxes: A handful of third-party sellers also listed the device for sale on Amazon's website. Like Walmart, shipping was sometimes fulfilled by Amazon. In a few cases, Amazon offers users a discount if they clipped a coupon.

On one Superbox listing, an Amazon shopper named Marc left a lengthy review that called the device a "super deal." The review listed Marc's location in the United States and included a photograph showing six Sky Sports channels available through his Superbox. The channels are part of a sports package available to satellite subscribers in the United Kingdom; none of them are offered legally in the United States.

Walmart removes Superbox listings

Collectively, Amazon and Walmart took down around a dozen Superbox listings from their websites shortly after Fierce Video reached out to them with questions about the products. Both companies attributed the listings to third-party sellers who violated certain terms of service.

"Walmart has a robust trust and safety program, which actively works to prevent items such as these from being sold on the site," a spokesperson for Walmart said. "After reviewing, these items have been removed."

A spokesperson for Amazon said third-party sellers operate as independent businesses on their website and are "required to follow all applicable laws, regulations and Amazon policies when listing items for sale in our store."

"We have proactive measures in place to prevent prohibited products from being listed, and we continuously monitor our store," the Amazon spokesperson said. "Amazon takes corrective actions with respect to products that violate our policies. The products in question are no longer available."

A review of each company's retail website on Thursday showed no Superbox models were available through Walmart, while Amazon was still selling around 20 different versions of the device.

The Superbox brand appears to originate with a small operation in China, according to websites and social media profiles reviewed by Fierce Video. The company recruits individual distributors in the United States and elsewhere through social media campaigns, with support provided to distributors and customers through chat services like WeChat and WhatsApp.

Over the last few years, cable and satellite companies have pushed federal law enforcement officials to pursue content pirates who steal their signals and redistribute them over IPTV services.

Last October, YouTube personality Bill Omar Carrasquillo was one of three people arrested and charged in connection with an illegal IPTV service called Gears TV. Prior to his arrest, Carrasquillo posted a video claiming Comcast had encouraged the FBI to look into his operation. He pled guilty to some charges earlier this year; he has not yet been sentenced, and many of the court records associated with his criminal case have been sealed by a judge.

Satellite broadcaster Dish Network has aggressively pursued online pirates who steal their signals for other illegal streaming services. In 2018, the company sued an operation called Set TV, forcing them offline. A judge later ordered Set TV's executives to pay Dish Network more than $90 million in damages. Earlier this year, Dish Network filed a new lawsuit claiming the founders of Set TV had started another illegal IPTV service. That case is still making its way through the court system.