Crackdown on 'fully loaded' Fire TV Sticks block thousands from streaming everything on Sky TV for £40

a fire tv stick pictured on a table with a living room seen in the background

Fire TV Sticks are one of the most popular ways to bring catch-up and streaming services, games, and social media applications to your TV — but they're also favoured by criminals who engineer illicit ways to stream paid-for content

Aaron Brown

By Aaron Brown

Published: 06/06/2024

- 11:53

Illicit Fire TV Stick operation was shuttered after an investigation by FACT and Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit

  • "Fully loaded" Fire TV Sticks offered access to Sky TV and TNT Sports content
  • Subscriptions cost between £40 and £85 for 12-months access
  • Kevin James O’Donnell made £130,000 from these illicit Fire TV subscriptions
  • Facebook group used to distribute these IPTV devices had 3,600 members
  • Latest in a string of crackdown operations by FACT
  • Police have warned fully loaded Fire TV Stick users to "expect knock at the door"

All products are independently selected by our experts. To help us provide free impartial advice, we will earn an affiliate commission if you buy something. Click here to learn more

Law enforcement has closed an illegal Fire TV Stick operation that offered access to everything on Sky TV for a fraction of the cost. The man at the heart of the operation, Kevin James O’Donnell, has been handed a two-year suspended sentence for promoting and selling illegally modified Amazon Fire TV Sticks.

The 41-year-old resident of Liverpool pled guilty in Liverpool Crown Court after an extensive investigation by watchdog FACT (Federation Against Copyright Theft) and the Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit.

two police officers pictured with their backs turned to the camera wearing helmets

Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit joined the crackdown with FACT


There's nothing illegal about owning or watching live and on-demand content on a Fire TV Stick — a very popular rival to the likes of Roku and Apple TV designed by Amazon.

However, these low-cost streaming gadgets can often be modified to unlock access to premium films, exclusive TV shows, and live sports content from providers like Sky and TNT Sports. These are referred to as "fully loaded" Fire TV Sticks or IPTV devices.

Investigators from FACT uncovered that O’Donnell was actively promoting an illegal IPTV subscription service on Facebook. Operating under the alias "Kevo James", his account boasted over 3,600 members and was used as a platform to sell modified Fire TV Sticks.

These gadgets were configured to unlock access to paid-for content from Sky TV. Users were charged an annual fee of between £40 - £85 for 12 months access, with payment taken directly on the illegally-configured Fire TV Stick. Even with the best Sky Stream deals, a legitimate contract starts from £23 per month for a Sky Entertainment bundle and a Netflix subscription, with Sky Sports and Sky Cinemas as optional extras.

Sky TV has exclusive deals with a number of hit US shows from HBO, including House of the Dragon, The White Lotus, Succession, Euphoria, Mare of Easttown, The Wire, and Game Of Thrones. It also commissions a huge number of its own shows, like the award-winning comedy Brassic, I Hate Suzie, and Chernobyl.

It also has the rights to hundreds of Premier League and English Football League games, which will be broadcast as part of a rebooted Sky Sports+ service in the coming months. Sky Cinema offers early access to Hollywood movies as well as Vue cinema tickets each month.

O’Donnell collected subscription fees for his illicit Sky TV contracts through Facebook direct messaging or WhatsApp and provided delivery services either by post or in-person. It is estimated that O’Donnell made over £130,000 defrauding content owners of over half a million pounds.

Commenting on the case, FACT CEO Kieron Sharp said: "We are immensely grateful for the diligent work carried out by Merseyside Police Cyber Crime Unit. Their collaboration with FACT has been instrumental in holding O’Donnell accountable for his actions. This case highlights the importance of protecting legitimate providers as well as the significant impact that coordinated law enforcement efforts can have on combating digital piracy.

"The message is very clear: if you sell a device that provides access to content that is not licensed to you or owned by you, you could face criminal investigation, prosecution, and possible conviction."

This prosecution is the latest in an ongoing crackdown across the UK on modified Fire TV Sticks. In March, FACT worked in conjunction with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and the Premier League to target 11 individuals across the UK who were selling illegal access to premium TV content, including live Premier League matches via modified or so-called "fully loaded" Smart TV devices or Fire TV Sticks.

sky stream box pictured on an entertainment unit with a flatscreen tv above and a redesigned remote control on the bed

Sky has a number of exclusivity deals in the UK, including a number of critically acclaimed US shows from HBO, including Game of Thrones and its spin-off House of the Dragon 


One person was arrested, and 10 others were interviewed under caution.

Law enforcement previously warned those who are watching or distributing fully loaded Fire TV Sticks in the UK to "expect a knock at the door". Earlier this year, GB News revealed that Chat-GPT could offer advice for those looking to leverage Fire TV Stick devices to watch Sky TV content for free.

Detective Inspector Steve Frame, who worked on the case that resulted in the prosecution of Kevin James O’Donnell, added: "We have been working closely with FACT to ensure that O’Donnell is made to answer for his actions, and this was a great example of how police and industry experts can come together to tackle this type of criminality.

"The investigation found that O’Donnell had made a significant amount of money from selling these illegally adapted firesticks and had done so over a number of years through Facebook and WhatsApp.


"Illegal streaming is far from a victimless crime, and as well as the impact it has on businesses and content creators, it essentially means that legitimate subscribers pay for those who illegally access such services. Illegal streams also increase the risk of users receiving malware, which can put them at increased risk of falling victim to Computer Misuse Act offences.

"We will use all available powers and continue to work with FACT to identify anyone else who is involved in this form of criminality and put them before the courts."

FACT works closely with the rights holders of sports, broadcast partners, and others across the industry to investigate and prosecute suppliers of illegal streaming services, other IP crimes, and those accessing illegal content. Illegal IPTV undermines broadcasters’ rights by diverting revenue streams, as it enables users to access premium content without proper compensation.

The latest crackdown comes a few months after a new awareness campaign, called Be Stream Wise, launched with posters plastered across the London Underground, short films on YouTube, and online adverts.

Formed by respected brands from the film, TV and sports industry – including FACT, as well as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Crimestoppers, Sky, British Association for Screen Entertainment (Base), Premier League, and ITV – the awareness campaign is designed to educate people about the pitfalls of illegal streams.

Illegal Fire TV Sticks and sites offering free access to copyrighted material are increasingly operated by sophisticated criminal networks, the Be Stream Wise campaign alleges. Not only that, but these websites, dodgy devices and subscriptions are also used as a way to commit credit card fraud.

The British Association for Screen Entertainment (Base) says: “Our research has shown that those who view films, TV shows or sports fixtures through illegal streams increasingly report serious repercussions such as viruses, scams and personal data breaches.”

A recent study found that 90% of the 50 illegal streaming sites analysed were classified as risky.

You may like