A comment by a Netflix executive in The Netherlands on a Dutch news site shed a bit of light on how the company figures out what content to acquire: they watch what's being stolen.
Netflix' Vice President of Content Acquisition Kelly Merryman told the Dutch technology news site Tweakers.net that the firm can tell that shows like Prison Break may do well in their streaming service because of traffic on sites like Bittorrent. “With the purchase of series, we look at what does well on piracy sites,” Merryman told Tweakers. “Prison Break is exceptionally popular on piracy sites,” Merryman said.
Netflix executives claim that their service damages Bittorrent traffic. Speaking to Stuff.tv in May, Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said "when we launch in a territory the Bittorrent traffic drops as the Netflix traffic grows," reflecting superior streaming service.
Bittorrent took exception to Sarandos' comments, noting that Bittorent has a traffic-shaping protocol that slows its use in the presence of other data-intensive services -- like Netflix -- and that Bittorrent is not designed as a platform for piracy. "Any person trying to preserve terabytes of data uses BitTorrent," said Matt Mason, Bittorrent's vice president of marketing. "They are not Internet pirates."