In a recent interview on Netherlands based site Tweakers a senior Netflix executive has admitted the company studies pirate torrent download charts carefully to help it decide what TV content to buy. Netflix has launched in the Netherlands last week offering subscriptions for €7.99 per month.
Netflix VP of content acquisition Kelly Merryman told Tweakers that “when purchasing series, we look at what does well on piracy sites”. Of course this is a task that has to be undertaken on a country by country basis as the popularity of TV shows varies considerably between different regions. The Netherlands is actually the 41st country to receive Netflix services so perhaps monitoring sites such as TPB and checking through piracy popularity charts around the world provides a full time job for a couple of people at Netflix HQ.
Merryman said that based on piracy figures for the 20th Century Fox Television series ‘Prison Break’ in the Netherlands it was a must-have series for the Dutch market. Netflix also looks at cinema viewing figures from films but the popularity of live shows, such as The Voice, doesn’t often convert to a Netflix purchase. “Such live programs are better suited for live TV,” and it is why concerts, sporting events and news programs, even if highly popular, are also not compelling purchases for Netflix, explained the content acquisition VP. Previously Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, claimed that BitTorrent usage in Canada dropped by half after the streaming service’s launch in that country.
In another example of the double-edged sword of piracy Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, said piracy had helped his show survive past the initial first episodes which reportedly had a “low viewership” on regular TV.