Netflix admits they use piracy sites to help pick their shows

  • @jjvincent

Video streaming giant Netflix has admitted that they study the most popular TV downloads on piracy websites to help decide which content to bring to their service.

Although the piracy of TV shows and film continues to be a thorn in the side for copyright holders, they are still honest reflections of what audiences want to watch.

"With the purchase of series, we look at what it does well on piracy sites," said Kelly Merryman, vice president of content acquisition at Netflix, to Dutch tech website Tweakers.

The Netherlands is the 41 country to receive Netflix’s services, with Merryman offering the example of Prison Break as a TV show that was hugely popular with Dutch pirates, leading to her decision to syndicate it in the country.

"We see what movies are popular in the cinema and what the ratings," said Merryman. "But there are many programs that we will not buy, such as The Voice. Such live programs are better suited for live TV.'s That’s why we do not focus on sporting events, news programs and concert recordings.”

Merryman isn’t the only TV executive to look twice at piracy figures. When asked to comment on the popularity of the Game of Thrones series with online pirates, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes even went as far as to refer to the shows status as the most pirated in the world as “better than an Emmy.”

Netflix’s streaming model also hopes to combat piracy by offering ‘near instant syndication’ – a method that was used for the screening of the final episodes of Breaking bad (but that didn’t stop the showing being downloaded more than half a million times in just 12 hours).

The company's chief Executive had previously told Tweakers that his service helped cut down on piracy by providing a more efficient and enjoyable service. "In Canada BitTorrent is down by 50% since Netflix launched three years ago," he said. "But there's still a lot of people who torrent."

A recent study of piracy in the UK showed that a quarter of all downloads in the country were illegal in nature, but also that a small minority of users were responsible for the majority of downloads with just two per cent of internet users accounting for three quarters (74 per cent) of all downloads.