Back in 2013, Techdirt wrote a story about how Netflix was using piracy as market research — an approach that is as obvious as it is rare. The copyright maximalists doubtless hoped that would fail dismally, and that Netflix would see the error of its ways and join the industry chorus condemning piracy as a terrible scourge that impoverishes artists and causes society to collapse. Neither has happened, as an interview with Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, in El Mundo makes clear (original in Spanish, via TorrentFreak). Hastings confirms that looking at pirate sites to find out what people were interested in did indeed work out well in the Netherlands, and that this gives him confidence Netflix will thrive when it launches later this year in Spain — a country that has traditionally had a high level of piracy:
I think that Spain is going to be one of our most successful countries. It has a population with a high level of [Internet] connectivity, which is accustomed to e-commerce and has given indications of being interested in our product. We are very optimistic.
He expands on why piracy is a help, not a hindrance, and how Netflix will manage to sell its services in the face of these free alternatives:
What’s certain is that [piracy] has created a public that is accustomed to viewing content online. We will offer an alternative that is much simpler and immediate than looking for a torrent.
That’s also what Hastings said in 2013, so clearly he has not found any reason to change his mind since then. These are exactly the kind of ideas that Techdirt has been promoting for years, but it’s hugely refreshing to find a successful media CEO willing to say them on the record not once, but twice. It’s a pity that so many other copyright companies still insist on fighting piracy, rather than learning how to turn it to their advantage.