Netflix Is Organically Killing Piracy Numbers

By  · Published on May 6th, 2013

It’s been a standard argument from the piracy community that if there were better access to movies and TV shows online, there would be a lot less illegal downloading. It turns out they now have a powerful ally in delivering that message.

According to a recent interview with Stuff (via TorrentFreak), Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said “The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options,” and he has the internal data to support that mindset. According to Sarandos, every time Netflix enters a new territory, its numbers go up while Torrent numbers go down.

There are a lot of conclusions to draw here, but Sarandos himself has the money quote: “One of the side effects of growth of content is an expectation to have access to it. You can’t use the Internet as a marketing vehicle and then not as a delivery vehicle.” In other words, there’s a new nation of fans that are asking why they see a movie’s 2 teaser trailers, 5 full trailers, 10 posters, 30 character posters, commentary, interviews, set footage and hi-res official pics online, but can’t see the movie there.

The answers there are as complicated as they are obvious, but studios (not to mention the indie world) are finally experimenting a bit more with VOD platforms and online release dates, so maybe they’re finally responding to the kinds of numbers that Netflix has seen for some time. Of course, none of this makes piracy right. It’s still most harmful to independent filmmakers trying to make even the slightest margin of profit. But as a simple reality, it’s an element that greatly effects distribution in the internet age, and it might be moving the needle toward a different way of thinking.

Like television and home video before it, it seems natural that the studio system writ large will complain about and fight tooth and nail a new way of doing something before adopting it and finding new ways to monetize it. Could that evolution finally be happening?

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Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector Podcast@brokenprojector | Writing short stories at Adventitious.