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Google Suggests You Watch ‘House Of Cards’ Online For Free At Stream-TV Over Netflix [Updated]

    February 19, 2014
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Update: Since this was first published, Google is now showing Netflix at the top of the organic results for the House of Cards example. It has also been brought to my attention that nobody is really using the “watch house of cards” query. I guess that’s good. I really wasn’t trying to suggest that this is the way everybody gets to these shows. I just found it odd that Google would display such results for such queries. Despite its apparent low search volume, a query like “watch house of cards” doesn’t seem all that crazy to me. Either way, this isn’t how the majority of people find these shows, and it was never my intention to imply that it was.

Google is suggesting that users looking to “watch House of Cards” check out Stream-TV.me, which is pointing users to episodes from both seasons “online free”. I’m sure you’ve encountered sites like this before even if not this specific one.

Note: I’m adding this update in response to comments received on this article. This is Google’s algorithm dictating which results to show. I’m in no way suggesting that Google as a company is encouraging piracy.

What’s interesting is that Google would put this as the first result for the query, ahead of Netflix itself (which is the second result). Other sites like couchtuner.eu and TVmuse.com also promising episodes online for free are sprinkled throughout the top ten, along with various videos and articles from sources like ABC and Variety. The “news” results suggest the user “watch the kinky sex scene everyone is talking about.”

If you turn off “Search Plus Your World,” a Netflix ad appears at the top, but it’s still under Stream-TV in the organic results.

house of cards

I’m not sure what the personalization of SPYW is about here, by the way. Does Google know I’m a Netflix subscriber so it doesn’t bother to show me the ad when I have it enabled?

Look how far down on the page Netflix is for Orange is the New Black:

Similar results occur for other Netflix originals like Lilyhammer, Hemlock Grove, Arrested Development, and Derek. Netflix isn’t even in the results for Mako Mermaids:

Netflix doesn’t make an appearance at all until page six, and that’s just a post from the Netflix Nodics newsroom, which doesn’t even work. I got through fourteen pages of results without finding a link to watch it on Netflix, which is without question the most relevant destination (at least here in the U.S.).

How does it do on other Netflix original content like documentary The Square, which is nominated for an Oscar? Well, Netflix gets the top spot in the organic results on that one, but a Google house ad to get it from Google Play appears above that, which is interesting considering it’s not currently available on Google Play. Click it, and you’ll realize that Google is just trying to sell you a 2008 film of the same name. All of Google’s organic results know that this isn’t the film you’re looking for (and by the way, where’s the Knowledge Graph option to choose on this one?), but that doesn’t mean Google can’t try to sell you something completely irrelevant at the top of the page. Also notice the other irrelevant ad on the side.

How about the Aziz Ansari stand-up special Buried Alive? Keep in mind, this is a six-month Netflix exclusive (which Netflix has gone out of its way to promote heavily compared to other specials). it debuted in November on Netlix, and after a six-month run, Ansari said a $5 download option would become available. Google gives you a site with a list of seventeen links to find it (SolarMovie.so) as well as another option above the Netflix link. Netflix does have an ad spot on this one, which Google showed at the bottom of the page (though I refreshed it and lost it for the screenshot).

It’s not just Netflix content. Google has some questionable results for a lot of TV shows, though it seems to do a little better with HBO content in some cases. “Watch Game of Thrones” and “Watch True Detective” both returned HBO as the top result.

Netflix is the obvious choice for its original shows, but it’s not even the only legitimate option in some cases. You can find episodes of House of Cards on Amazon, for example, yet this did not appear on the first page of results either.

Images via Google

  • Jude Lawless

    yes, Google as a company made the calculated choice to encourage piracy. do you even know how web search ranking algorithms work? me neither, but at least I don’t vomit misleading, uninformed articles about it.

    • Chris Crum

      I don’t recall saying that they intentionally encourage piracy. We have plenty of articles about their efforts to combat piracy. What exactly is misleading about this article? I’m only showing real examples of Google search results that they’re clearing getting wrong.

      • Guest

        Why should they try to fix a search result that isn’t even being used? Their trend analysis confirms this.

        • Chris Crum

          So they should just leave bad results out there in hopes that nobody will ever use them?

          • antifud

            Google’s job is not to filter search results. Many people would like it to be their job – it’s not. They make an algorithm they tweak for accuracy, not legality. The latter is expressly not their responsibility at any time, because it is not their job to determine. We do not hold service providers responsible for the results of their service in general. This is almost universal in principle globally aside from explicit censorship regimes.

          • Chris Crum

            Google’s job is to show the most relevant search results for a query. In my mind, the most relevant result for watching a Netflix show is Netflix. It’s that simple. All legalities and “censorship” aside, it’s basically like favoring a scraper site over the original content site being scraped. I haven’t even argued that they should remove these sites from search results altogether.

      • JungleBoi Tee

        “What exactly is misleading about this article?” To start, the word “suggest.” in the headline..

  • JungleBoi Tee

    Thanks for wasting our time with yellow journalism!

  • JD

    Are you an idiot? Why are you writing an article about Google when you clearly have no idea how it works or what its purpose is…

    • Chris Crum

      I was under the impression that its purpose was to give the most relevant results. Please enlighten me.

  • Chris Crum

    To those who have commented here so far, the point of this article was simply to point out how poorly the number one search engine in the world (by far) is handling these queries. Not entirely unlike articles I have written in the past on the misinformation it spreads with the Knowledge Graph. I don’t believe Google is intentionally trying to promote piracy. Just that the search experience is flawed.

    • Guest

      Your point is flawed, because nobody is using these queries. This is manufactured hype, at best.

      • Chris Crum

        I don’t think my point is flawed. Perhaps my execution of making it. Honestly not looking to manufacture hype. Just reporting observations. I’m sorry that people are taking it to be more. To the best of my knowledge, nothing I reported was factually incorrect.

        • JungleBoi Tee

          Factually incorrect: “Google Suggests….”

    • colin

      I think you’re “search experience” is flawed, since you’re using search terms that no one else uses…

      • colin

        And my grammar is flawed…*your*

  • antifud

    I love your intellectual dishonesty here. Way to go!

    Techdirt to the rescue:

    http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140220/15313026302/reporter-realizes-that-if-you-do-search-almost-no-one-does-google-might-point-you-to-unauthorized-version-house-cards.shtml

    TLDR: nobody searches “Watch house of cards”.

    • Chris Crum

      As noted in an update (and in TechDirt comments), I should have checked the search volume in the first place. That said, I never said it was a high volume search.

      • antifud

        It’s almost hilarious that this has occurred. This is the premise of an entire article that could have done with a bit more research. The article is written quite a bit more strongly than your retractions imply, though.

        • Chris Crum

          Like I said in another comment, execution could have been better.

  • Slacker273

    These comments are the most wonderful circlejerk I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Thanks for the laugh, guys. You da best.

  • monkeygrudge

    As is mentioned in the TD comments for this article, the House of Cards example isn’t even relevant, as it links to the original BBC show, not the “current” series…Chris’s premise isn’t flawed, because calling something irrelevant because hit volume does not invalidate the fact one can still perform the other searches and find dubious links.

    • Chris Crum

      As I mentioned in the TD comments (with a link to the page), it’s actually for Netflix’s American version. It mentions the british one, but then goes on to note that it’s the Kevin Spacey version (along with a picture for the new one).

  • Orah

    Your article ranks #9….

  • XCLN

    Well – they do the right job – it’s up to Netflix etc to go after illegal sites. And.. unfortunately for some, it appears that Stream-Tv is out of business as of today.
    Yesterday it was slowing down dangerously. Now no live links at all. RIP Stream-TV

  • JungleBoi Tee

    Another click-bait headline – so if I search for “have sex with hooker” Google is suggesting I screw the first result. Jell-O Journalism. Chris Crum, you know better.

  • http://devinlamb.com devin

    Google shouldn’t turn to HBO GO for True Detective. The site crashed due to traffic. funny though 3 listings below is a site called 3click.TV which had the complete series streaming. I don’t think they interfere and its purely by back links…. so how did this 3click get listed there? They have a lot of shows but google doesn’t seem to differentiate. I like this though, I don’t want Google Suites picking what is available for me.