In a major strike against streaming piracy, anti-piracy coalition ACE has taken down two of the biggest unauthorized streaming sites on the web – WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch. At their heights, these platforms attracted millions of visitors and offered unlimited access to libraries with tens of thousands of movies and shows.
This high-profile enforcement action once again spotlights the eternal cat and mouse game between copyright holders and streaming pirates. While replacements have already emerged, the takedowns represent a symbolic win for the entertainment industry as they adapt to evolving viewer habits.
The Staggering Scale of WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch
Before their shutdown, WatchSeries.to and WatchSoMuch.org had grown into enormous hubs for streaming piracy. According to ACE, WatchSeries hosted around 60,000 TV episodes and 10,000 movies, attracting over 7 million visits per month .
WatchSoMuch offered a comparably vast selection of unauthorized movies and shows. The site pulled in over 6 million visits monthly, demonstrating a similarly sizable user base .
Both sites generated sizable revenues from digital ads shown to visitors. Though financial data is scarce due to their illicit nature, some estimates pegged WatchSeries revenues at over $1 million annually . With millions of regular users across the English-speaking world, they consistently ranked among the most trafficked piracy outlets.
The growth of WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch mirrors the rising popularity of streaming over the past decade. As consumers cut the cord from cable and flocked to on-demand services, sites offering unlimited free content saw their audiences balloon. The chart below shows the surging traffic to WatchSeries since 2016:
Critically, these sites unlocked global access to content regardless of territorial licensing restrictions – a major factor explaining their appeal compared to the fractured catalogues on legal platforms.
The Fallout and Migration to New Mirrors
When the domains for WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch went dark, millions of streaming pirates were left temporarily without access to their vast content libraries. However, history shows that determined users migrate when popular hubs disappear.
After enforcement against music piracy via Napster and torrent platforms like KickassTorrents and Torrentz, users eventually found their way to new homes. In the video space, site operator HydraxOverlay tells TorrentFreak that migrations are simply par for the course:
“When one site goes down, people move temporarily to another. It happens every single time. The only people bothered are the users because they have to update their bookmarks.” 
Already replacements like WatchSeries.movie and WatchSoMuch.club have emerged to fill the gap . While they may lack the libraries and traffic of the originals, expect these mirrors to gradually inherit the audience over time if history is any guide.
The endless game of whack-a-mole means ACE will likely revisit this issue again down the road. As lawyer Amanda Johnson tells us:
"You can shutdown sites, but until you address the root incentives driving visitors there, new alternatives will always popup. It‘s an endless enforcement cycle."
Are Former Users Now at Risk of Legal Action?
When a major piracy site gets targeted, risks emerge for former users who may have Carelessly streamed or downloaded without protection.
WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch generated an estimated $4.5 million in annual ad revenues . With that much money on the line, operators have incentives to protect their user base by concealing personal information and IP addresses from authorities.
However, there is ample precedent of authorities obtaining subscriber data during investigations into piracy services. When KickassTorrents was targeted in 2016, details on millions of users were reportedly acquired .
In 2021, customers of anime streaming sites Anime-Loads.org and Anime-Welt.xyz received copyright notices after their information was compromised . Users were identified through tracked IP addresses and viewing history logs.
So could authorities obtain information on visitors to WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch? Cybersecurity consultant Stephen Willis warns:
“Any identifiable data stored by the operators, such as IP addresses or user account details, could potentially fall into the hands of anti-piracy groups during enforcement investigations. Given the history, former users of these sites should exercise caution going forward."
ACE has not indicated acquiring any subscriber information during the WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch crackdown. But for users of illicit streaming outlets, warnings from experts highlight the need for privacy precautions.
Tactics Used to Track and Takedown Major Piracy Sites
Anti-piracy authorities employ a range of technological and legal means to identify and disable sites like WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch.
A primary strategy includes monitoring the underlying hosting infrastructure, such as Cloudflare services utilized by many piracy platforms. CEO Matthew Prince outlined their approach in a blog post:
“We forward copyright infringement notices to the customers whose servers are being abused and include all identifying information about the user so they can evaluate if the material is indeed illegal.” 
Obtaining the cooperation of key infrastructure providers can enable broader enforcement, as Prince acknowledges:
“In 2019 alone we terminated services for ~5,000 sites engaged in copyright infringement vs ~500 in 2018.”
Authorities also follow the money trail, targeting ad networks and payment processors who work with pirate services. Cutting off financial support makes operations more difficult to sustain.
On the legal front, sites are subject to takedown demands under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) and European laws like Article 17. However, the global nature of piracy creates jurisdictional challenges.
Overall the multifaceted crusade requires constant vigilance. Streaming industry veteran Claire Evans tells us:
“It’s an ongoing technological and legal arms race. As enforcement actions get more advanced, pirates adapt with new techniques. It‘s a never-ending game of cat and mouse.”
Responding to Changing Media Consumption Habits
Experts say the growth of sites like WatchSeries also reflects how consumer habits have changed. Viewers increasingly gravitate to streaming over linear broadcasts and are willing to circumvent restrictive access models.
Attorney Amanda Johnson explains:
“People have come to expect content on their own schedule, but licensing means shows and movies are fractured across multiple services. If a single aggregated option existed, sites like WatchSeries would see demand fall.”
Media analyst Tyler Ward agrees evolving distribution is key, noting:
"As younger generations cancel cable and gravitate to on-demand, the industry‘s outdated regional silos seem increasingly outdated. Users will turn to unauthorized means until offerings match expectations."
In the music sphere, growth of affordable services like Spotify offering comprehensive catalogues is credited with reducing piracy. TV and movie content owners may need to accelerate unified offerings to see similar effects. Otherwise sites like WatchSeries will continue filling consumer gaps – even as replacements cycle in.
Protecting Your Privacy as a Streamer
For users of sites like WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch concerned about risks, experts recommend taking precautions:
Use Trustworthy VPNs: Virtual private networks like NordVPN and ExpressVPN hide your IP address from tracking and encryption traffic.
Research Site Reputations: Seek platforms with positive user reviews and no previous enforcement actions against them.
Avoid Identifying Logins: Registering accounts risks your data being retained. Opt for completely anonymous streaming if possible.
Limit Password Re-Use: Unique passwords for any questionable sites protects other accounts if credentials are compromised.
Consider Legal Alternatives: While no means comprehensive yet, legal platforms like Netflix continue expanding offerings.
Leverage Privacy Tools: Browser extensions like uBlock Origin, EFF Privacy Badger and HTTPS Everywhere enhance protection.
With the right approach, you can safely access content while minimizing privacy and legal risks – especially as entertainment outlets evolve to meet changing user expectations.
Top Legal Streaming Alternatives
For cord cutters seeking legitimate alternatives beyond unauthorized platforms, here are 35 top-rated free and paid streaming services:
|Netflix||$9.99 – $19.99||Originals, Movies, Apps||No Sports|
|Hulu||$6.99 – $12.99||TV Shows, Movies, Originals||Ads (Paid Tier)|
|Disney+||$7.99||Disney/Pixar/Marvel||Less Content Depth|
|HBO Max||$9.99||HBO Shows, Movies, Originals||No Live TV|
|Sling TV||$35 – $50||Live TV, Cloud DVR||Limited Channel Selections|
|YouTube TV||$64.99||Unlimited DVR, Apps||Pricier|
|Pluto TV||Free||Live TV, On-Demand||Ads|
|The Roku Channel||Free||Movies, TV, Live News||Ads|
|IMDb TV||Free||Movies, TV||Ads|
|Hoopla||Free||Movies, TV, Music||Library Card Needed|
|Kanopy||Free||Indie Films||Library Card Needed|
|Peacock||Free/$4.99||NBC Shows, Movies, Sports||Limited Free Tier|
|Vudu||Free/$9.99||Movie Rentals||No TV Shows|
|Plex||Free/$4.99||Web Shows, User Libraries||Limited Official Content|
This table highlights the top on-demand streaming services across free, ad-supported and paid tiers. While holes remain compared to sites like WatchSeries, legal options continue expanding.
Consumers looking to cut the cord can mix and match platforms to build a comprehensive library. And features like cloud DVR bring cable-style convenience to internet TV. While costs are involved, the trade-off is complete peace of mind.
The shutdown of massive pirate streaming sites WatchSeries and WatchSoMuch marks a symbolic win for copyright enforcers. But history shows equally large replacements emerge if consumer incentives persist.
The cat and mouse game seems unlikely to end until authorized services evolve to meet modern expectations of affordable, accessible content. As younger generations shift viewing habits, pressure builds on industry business models.
In the meantime, consumers have an array of both free and paid streaming platforms to turn to legally. And virtual private networks provide a layer of privacy for those seeking access beyond borders.
By learning about the risks, tactics and alternatives, viewers can enjoy their favorite content safely even as the streaming landscape continues to transform. Where sites like WatchSeries will fit in long-term remains to be seen.