Netflix, a popular streaming video content provider in the US, Canada and thirty-nine other countries, has recently revealed how they determine which shows to buy for the service and which ones are not popular; by checking Torrent download stats for TV shows in every region to tailor content specifically for each country.
Speaking to Netherlands-based Tweakers in a recent interview, Netflix VP of content acquisition, Kelly Merryman, said that “when purchasing series, we look at what does well on piracy sites. That helps a lot.”
This is done on a per-region basis, where Merryman and her team scout Torrent trackers in each country to see what is currently trending among users and which shows are seeing dips or low viewer ratings. While the popularity of any show is a hint at where they should be looking, Merryman notes that it doesn’t always turn into a purchase of streaming rights.
“You’ll see that, for example, we don’t have The Voice on Netflix, despite its popularity among viewers,” said Merryman. “Live TV programs are better suited to live broadcasting because of the connection to the audience and this is one of the reasons why we don’t have content like concerts, sporting events or news programs. Even if they’re really popular, its not a compelling purchase.”
One example Merryman can identify is Prison Break, which is currently enjoying a surge in popularity on Dutch-based Torrent trackers and prompted the company to purchase the streaming rights to the show.
Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings adds that the service has used Torrent trackers to not only gauge show popularity, but also how the service itself is doing inside any country. Reed noted that Canada’s Torrent usage for sharing TV shows has dropped by 50% after Netflix recently celebrated its third year of service in the country.
“The Netherlands has incredible connectivity. They have the highest average internet speed and we’re seeing a big trend in Dutch internet users watching streaming video. Certainly following our launch here there’s still a lot of Torrenting going on, which happens all around the world, but not only is our service a legal alternative, our performance is so much better.”
Netflix launched in the Netherlands on 14 September and is already amassing users signing up to the service. Netflix is currently not officially available in South Africa, and even if it were, our poor broadband standards would make the service irrelevant to the majority of consumers.
South African Netflix subscribers currently use a combination of proxies, false addresses and virtual private networks (VPN) to access content on Netflix. Despite paying for a legal streaming service, Netflix advises that this flouts their terms and conditions of the service.