A key goal of Netflix's partnerships with Hollywood is helping to curb illegal downloading, and it believes it can help do that by offering the same content that is popular with pirates.
While a competitor to sites that offer free downloading of video content, the movie streaming service also gleans valuable information about what programming to acquire for its customers.
After Netflix rolled out its service last week in the, Kelly Merryman, the company's vice president of content acquisition in Europe, said piracy sites play a key role in its purchase decisions.
"With the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites," Merryman told Amsterdam-based tech site Tweakers, noting that that information contributed to its decision to pick up the hit TV show "Prison Break." "'Prison Break' is exceptionally popular on piracy sites," she said.
In a separate interview with Tweakers, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said the company is trying to position itself as an alternative to piracy sites that he said actually create demand for his company's pay service.
"Certainly there's some torrenting that goes on, and that's true around the world, but some of that just creates the demand," said Hastings, who believes ease-of-use will help convert illegal downloaders. "Netflix is so much easier than torrenting. You don't have to deal with files, you don't have to download them and move them around. You just click and watch."
Hastings claimed in an interview in May that use of the popular file-sharing protocol BitTorrent in Canada has declined significantly since the streaming service's launch in that country three years ago.