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Netflix turns to pirates when selecting new shows

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 Online pirates help Netflix determine which shows will succeed according to vice-president of aquisition Kelly Merryman (iStock)Like many media companies, Netflix is officially opposed to the act of illegally downloading TV shows and films. One of the company's stated goals includes curbing online piracy by making popular content more readily available on its servers.

Imagine the surprise, then, when the popular video streaming site admitted that it actually turns to torrenters for inspiration. 

"With the purchase of a series, we look at what does well on piracy sites," Netflix's vice-president of content acquisition Kelly Merryman told Dutch news site Tweakers.

Promoting the launch of Netflix in the Netherlands, Merryman used the American show Prison Break as an example of one such highly downloaded series. The show will be offered to customers in the Netherlands based on the demand for torrents of it locally.

"Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites," she said, "but there are many programmes that we will not buy, such as The Voice. Such live programmes are better suited for live TV."

If our home and native land can serve as an example, Netflix's strategy may be an effective one when it comes to dissuading pirates.

"In Canada BitTorrent is down by 50 per cent since Netflix launched three years ago," said Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings in a separate interview with Tweakers, "but there's still a lot of people who torrent."

Netflix itself has had to combat the problem of piracy in recent months with its own original content becoming increasingly coveted.

On Sunday it won two Emmys for its political thriller House of Cards -- the first time ever an online series had been awarded such a prize -- and its runaway summer hit Orange is the New Black continues to rack up critical acclaim and record viewership.

"Certainly there's some torrenting that goes on, and that's true around the world, but some of that just creates the demand," Hastings said, expressing his hope that eventually more users will switch over to Netflix for the user experience.

"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.

The challenge in making this happen, however, lies in a show's availability for licensing.

According to Torrentfreak, "It might not be a coincidence that Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV-show. After all, Netflix wasn't able to buy the rights from HBO no matter what they offered."

What are your thoughts on pirated material? Would you be less inclined to download something if you could stream it? Weigh in below.

Tags: pov, Technology and Science

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