Netflix CEO: ‘We’re Finally Beating BitTorrent’

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At the D9 Conference this morning, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings credited his company with helping to beat piracy — at least in the U.S. Now, he says, the challenge is to outcompete copyright infringement in places like Korea, where it runs rampant.

“One of the things that we’re most proud of is we’re now finally beating BitTorrent,” Hastings told AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. Thanks to services like Netflix, Hastings said most Internet video is now paid for in the U.S. The hard part for content providers, he said, was coming up with a service good enough that people were willing to pay for, rather than just searching for free content on the Internet. Netflix has been able to provide that service by making its streaming videos available across a vast number of devices, and giving subscribers access to a wide range of library content for a relatively low price.

Netflix has also enabled content owners to make money on shows they previously weren’t monetizing. Hastings offered up Joss Whedon’s Firefly as one example of a series that had a rabid fan base that couldn’t find it under legal means prior to appearing on Netflix. At the same time, he quelled any rumors that the company could bring Firefly back from the dead.

“All of those actors are 10 years older and the sets are gone,” Hastings said about the show. But he added that before Netflix brought it online, Firefly wasn’t getting monetized and now Fox is getting paid for it.

One other way Netflix can provide value is in offering up prior seasons of shows that are still on the air. “Mostly what we’d like to do is prior seasons of big shows,” Hastings said, suggesting networks like Showtime and HBO as examples of networks that it would like to have those series from. “We’re trying to be a complement to their business… We do better on catalog content than anyone else. Then that generates demand for current seasons.”

Hastings gave Dexter as one example of a show that benefited from having early seasons available on Netflix. By doing so, viewers were able to tune in to prior episodes, building buzz and interest in new episodes when they air. While Netflix has managed to get some content providers on board with this line of thinking, others are more wary. Fox, for instance, recently licensed the first season of its hit show Glee to Netflix, but at the same time it’s seeing networks like Showtime pulling back episodes of shows like Californication from the streaming catalog.

Later in the interview, Hastings said HBO’s The Wire was the one show that he’d most like to add to Netflix’s streaming library. But it’s unlikely that The Wire — or any HBO show — will come to Netflix streaming anytime soon, as the premium cable network seems committed to driving pay TV subscriptions through its TV Everywhere initiative. “Their strategy is, if you want old HBO [shows], you subscribe to HBO and you have HBO Go,” Hastings said.

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