Netflix picks shows that are popular with pirates

Netflix might consider itself the enemy of pirates, but it’s admitted that it relies on piracy stats to decide which TV shows and films to buy.

Netflix picks shows that are popular with pirates

The company’s vice-president of content acquisition, Kelly Merryman, told Dutch site Tweakers that it monitors piracy sites to see what’s popular, and makes licensing decisions based on those stats.

“With the purchase of a series, we look at what does well on piracy sites,” said Merryman.

According to Merryman, the company made Prison Break available in the Netherlands after noting it was frequently downloaded locally. “Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites,” she said.

She didn’t clarify which particular sites Netflix monitors, or how, but added that the company also checks to see which films are doing well at the cinema.

The strategy makes sense, as the most prolific pirates also tend to spend more on buying content legally through streaming services or other means.

According to an Ofcom survey, the most frequent illegal downloaders spend £26 on average every three months on content, compared with £16 among non-infringers.

That may not benefit Netflix directly, as only 16% of pirates subscribe to that particular streaming service compared to 25% of people who buy online content but don’t download it illegally.

However, around a fifth of the most prolific pirates said they’d give up downloading content entirely if a decent subscription service became available. A similar proportion said they’d stop downloading if everything they wanted was available legally, with rights holders often delaying releases across international markets.

Netflix has previously boasted that it’s responsible for a drop in piracy in the countries where it’s available. But the service is still limited, with some of the most pirated shows also streaming holdouts.

According to TorrentFreak, Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2012, but owner HBO refuses to make the show available on Netflix. The Big Bang Theory is the second most pirated show, but is only available via Netflix’s DVD rental service rather than streaming.

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