Netflix scans piracy sites to find popular shows

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Cloud-based video streaming site Netflix checks out popular content on piracy sites when deciding on the films and programmes to legally offer its customers, according to a company executive.

Speaking to Dutch website, vice president of content acquisition Kelly Merryman said the TV programmes that are popular on pirate websites form part of its choice for its customers, who can then watch content legally from them.

"With the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites," Merryman told the website. He said that this data helped the firm in its decision to pick up hit TV show Prison Break.

"Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites,” he said.

Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings also spoke to the Dutch website for the launch of its cloud video streaming service in the Netherlands. He said illegal video downloads actually created demand for legal alternatives, from the likes of Netflix as they are also more convenient.

"Netflix is so much easier than torrenting," said Hastings. "You don’t have to deal with files, you don’t have to download them and move them around. You just click and watch."

He pointed out that in the three years since Netflix launched in Canada, the use of Bit Torrent to download illegal content had fallen by half.

As reported by Cloud Pro’s sister site IT Pro, people who illegally downloaded material spend £26 on legal content, £10 more than those that don’t, according to a recent Ofcom report.

The highest volume infringers were more likely to say they already spend enough on content (19 per cent for the top 10 per cent of infringers compared with seven per cent among the bottom 80 per cent) and that “legal content is too expensive” (38 per cent versus 13 per cent).

Netflix relies heavily on content created by other production companies, but has recently started creating its own programming to stream via the cloud. Earlier this year, it premiered the remake of BBC drama House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey in the lead role of scheming Congressman Frank Underwood.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.