The good API

Writing at, contributor Emma Woollacott last month posted "Netflix checks piracy stats to help it decide what to buy". Citing an interview that first appeared on a Dutch website, Woolacott quotes a Netflix executive who claimed, "When purchasing series, we look at what does well on piracy sites."

Offering subscribers a paid path to obtain heavily-pirated content may actually reduce piracy in the markets where a legitimate option exists. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has claimed that "BitTorrent downloads in Canada fell by half after Netflix launched", while Ipsos MMI released the results of a study that showed illegal downloads dropped by 54% after Netflix and Spotify launched in Norway.

I've written a number of posts that explore my claim that "piracy is the consequence of a bad API". If you make it hard for people to buy the content they want, in the formats they want, then the piracy option becomes more appealing.

This is different from "viewing all instances of piracy as an indictment of a publisher's marketing program that has failed to figure out how to monetize those non-paying users", a summary that was attributed to me recently. Infringing use is infringing use. My research suggested that some piracy may help spur sales, and the data in all cases can help publishers better understand market demands. Netflix appears to comprehend those ideas.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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