Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos (the guy who has led content acquisition since 2000) thinks that the best way to curb piracy is to give the people some good alternatives.
"I think people do want a great experience and they want access - people are mostly honest. The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options," he said in a recent interview with Stuff.
Why does he think this? Well, he has some stats to back it up. Apparently, access to Netflix in any particular region is kind of a torrent killer.
"One of the things is we get ISPs to publicise their connection speeds - and when we launch in a territory the Bittorrent traffic drops as the Netflix traffic grows," said Sarandos.
So, going by that and that alone, it would seem that at least a good proportion of people who illegally download TV shows and movies simply do so because they lack an alternative. Maybe, if they had an alternative, they would take it.
Of course, BitTorrent activity is not limited to piracy, so a decline in BitTorrent traffic doesn't automatically equate to a decline in the downloading of TVs and movies. I spoke to BitTorrent Director of Communications Christian Averill, who clarifies that BitTorrent sees much of its traffic for actions not related to internet piracy.
"The key thing is that BitTorrent is a Internet protocol, like HTTP. It moves data better than any other protocol. It's an award winning technology used by Facebook, twitter, Wikipedia, Blizzard, genetic researchers and the scientists that are working on the Large Haldron Collider. Any company moving large data sets uses BitTorrent," he says.
But the fact remains, although it's out of their control, people use BitTorrent to download content. And a decline in its activity when Netflix becomes available certainly suggests that people are turning to a "legitimate" source of content like a paid streaming service, at least when it's available.
We can turn to HBO for more proof of this concept. Remember that "Please Take My Money, HBO" campaign that spread on Twitter last year? Sure you do. Thousands upon thousands of people took to Twitter to beg HBO to simply offer an HBO GO-style streaming service free of the ties of a cable subscription. They said that they would gladly pay for it - an average of $12+ a month if I recall.
Remember, HBO's Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2012 and its season 3 premiere episode broke torrent records a few weeks ago.
Would all of these pirates stop pirating if they simply had more legitimate streaming options?
"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," Sarandos added.
You listening, content providers?