What’s one thing you’d never expect to hear from an online content provider such as Netflix? That piracy is helping it drive its business. Before you go spreading the word that Netflix is advocating privacy, it’s not, but what it does to is gain valuable insights from the practice.
One of the hardest decisions content providers have to make is choosing which programs to recommend to consumers. Conducting a survey is both tedious and time consuming, so what’s the best way of knowing what viewers want to see? Simple, you check out BitTorrent and other ‘questionable’ sites.
Netflix recently launched its service in the Netherlands, and one of the programs it acquired a license for is Prison Break. According to Netflix Vice President of Content Acquisition, Kelly Merryman, Prison Break is highly sought after on BitTorrent sites and is one of the main reasons the license for the show was acquired.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings believes that torrenting creates a demand and that’s what the company is attempting to meet. It can’t be denied that downloading content off of torrent sites is popular all over the world, but Hastings believes that paying for a service, such as what Netflix is offering, is better than downloading content.
“Netflix is so much easier than torrenting. You don’t have to deal with files, you don’t have to download them and move them around. You just click and watch,” Hastings says.
Hastings certainly has a point, plus you don’t have to wait hours, days, or even weeks to be able to watch what you’ve downloaded – with Netflix, everything can be watched in an instant. Nevertheless, learning what people want from torrent sites gives Netflix a good idea of what content to offer to particular countries and regions, and that can only make the service more enticing.
But the one thing Hastings and the Netflix team failed to consider is that why would people pay for a service that offers them the content that they’ve already downloaded? If Netflix is basing its license purchasing on shows that are among the most downloaded on torrent sites, are there really that many people left that haven’t watched them already? It’s kind like offering an ice cream to someone who’s already eating ice cream – Netflix better hope its customers are greedy.