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Movie streaming service uses piracy to its advantage

Graeme Parton

Netflix announced recently that it monitors the activity of online pirates to decide which films and TV series it adds to its content streaming portfolio.

The American company put forward Prison Break as one example of a series it had decided to acquire as part of the strategy.

While large-scale media organisations have been known to see piracy as a significant threat to success, streaming services like Netflix and rival LoveFilm have no doubt helped to reduce incidents of copyright infringement. Music database Spotify has also had a big impact since it first launched in 2008.

This is, however, the first incidence of a company admitting to benefiting from piracy in such a direct way.

Speaking to Dutch news outlet Tweakers, the VP of content acquisition at Netflix, Kelly Merryman, said:

“With the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites; Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites.

“But there are many programmes that we will not buy, such as The Voice. Such live programmes are better suited for live TV.”

Reed Hastings, the company’s chief executive, has suggested to Tweakers in the past that Netflix’s product was likely to stop people from downloading content illegally using BitTorrent because of its user-friendliness.

He did say that it might not be enough to discourage everyone, however:

“In Canada BitTorrent is down by 50% since Netflix launched three years ago – but there’s still a lot of people who torrent.”

While businesses in the UK may not be able to benefit from piracy in the same way, they can learn something from Netflix’s tactics. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow company leaders to stay on top of what consumers are looking for in the content they find online.

Graeme has experience creating content for online sources and for the radio, and at university he studied Multimedia Journalism.

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