Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Piracy stats, a good gage for choosing new Netflix's acquisitions?

Ever wonder how Netflix decides what shows to buy? Well, among a myriad of factors, the company apparently looks at what’s popular on torrenting sites and goes from there. In an interview with Tweakers, Netflix VP of Content Acquisition flatout said the company looks at what does well on piracy sites when considering what shows to buy. It allegedly lead to Netflix buying Prison Break, which was frequently torrented overseas.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings also chimed in on the subject, saying piracy helps create demand; the company just capitalizes on that demand by securing rights to the show, which users can then watch in bulk rather than risking legal consequences. International rights are reportedly easier to acquire, though not every show is for sale. HBO’s Game of Thrones, a commonly pirated show, is one prime example.

Over the years, Netflix has built a solid reputation for its library of content. Recently, the streaming service has even begun to offer original shows, which have done quite well among audiences. So what shows is everyone watching these days? If it’s not on Netflix now, it could be down the road if piracy numbers are high.

One of Netflix's goals has always been to combat piracy of TV shows and movies — if you can get all the shows and movies you want for only a few dollars a month, the company hopes you'll stop downloading them illegally. But as the service rolls out in the Netherlands, Reed Hastings' team has gone so far as to actually check piracy statistics in determining what shows to buy. VP of Content Acquisition Kelly Merryman told Tweakers  that "with the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites." That led to Netflix buying Prison Break, for instance, a commonly torrented show in the Netherlands.

Merryman told Tweakers about some of Netflix's other considerations as well, including shows like The Voice that the company decides are more suited to live audiences — that's why we'll also likely never see Netflix competing for sports contracts, or airing an evening news show. Sadly, though Reed Hastings also told Tweakers that he'd love to help Game of Thrones solve its massive piracy problem by airing the show on Netflix, HBO's apparently not interested. But if Netflix can convince other studios and networks that piracy isn't better than an Emmy, it'll have an easy sales pitch to make for a lot of popular shows around the world.

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