Hackers attempted to hold Netflix ransom by threatening to release episodes of the new season of Orange Is the New Black on the Piratebay before they are available on the service. Netflix decided to ignore the threats, and the videos were leaked.
Although the hack offers a reminder that even the best security can be undone by the so-called “weakest link”—Netflix can’t do much if a vendor is compromised—it provides a bigger lesson in how the internet has largely shifted away from torrenting. If a show lands on The Pirate Bay and nobody watches, did it really stream?
Consider that in 2011, BitTorrent accounted for 23 percent of daily internet traffic in North America, according to network-equipment company Sandvine. By last year, that number sat at under 5 percent. “There’s always going to be the floor of people that are always going to be torrenting,” says Sandvine spokesperson Dan Deeth. That group will surely enjoy whatever Piper’s up to in season five. But the idea that so small a cohort might prompt Netflix to negotiate with hackers seems absurd.
Netflix is an absolutely terrific example that the way the combat piracy is extremely simple. Offer a better experience and people will be happy to pay handsomly. In 2011, BitTorrent was often the only way to watch high quality content such as HBO without paying for a full cable subscription and some form of premium package which included HBO.
BitTorrent is useful, and is certainly user friendly in comparison to previous peer to peer options, but it is much more laborious than simply logging on a website. By 2014, BitTorrent was already losing popularity to those illegal streaming sites which basically offered that experience, in exchange for a lot of adware and antagonizing ads. While I can't find the article now, I remember one particular scenario where a bar was using an illegal streaming service to broadcast the game during an event sponsored by the RIAA. Quite simply, the best experience to watch most sports live back then was through those sites.
Netflix didn't bother trying to deal with people pirating their content. In fact, they rolled out profiles which actually improved the user experience for all the millions of people sharing Netflix accounts between households. Netflix has always held strong that they provide the best possible experience to watch high quality content, constantly working to iron out any possible frustrations for the end user. As a result, Netflix is now arguably in the strongest position of any media network moving forward.
This has played out identically in the music industry with Spotify/Apple Music.