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Third Season of 'House of Cards' a Hit With Pirates

1 Mar, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

There are nearly 700,000 illegal downloads of Netflix’s original political series, with China leading all offending territories

There’s a reason Netflix wants a global footprint within two years: Piracy. The subscription streaming pioneer Feb. 27 bowed the third season (in its entirety) of original political series “House of Cards” — reportedly to widespread appeal among non-subscribers.

The series — co-starring Kevin Spacey as corrupt politician Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his scheming wife Claire — attracted 681,889 illegal downloads globally in 24 hours, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio as reported by Variety.

That’s more than twice the tally during season two’s launch a year ago. The figure does not include people accessing the show through fraudulent VPN downloads.

Netflix, per policy, does not disclose unique viewership for original and third-party content.

More importantly, 50% of the top 10 countries illegally accessing “Cards” included territories where Netflix isn’t officially available. Those countries included China (tops with 60,500 downloads), Australia, India, Greece and Poland.

Notably, the No. 2 destination for illegal access was the United States with 50,000 downloads, followed by the United Kingdom and Canada with 37,500 and 27,500 downloads, respectively. The three territories account for more than 70% of Netflix’s global base of 59 million paid subs — underscoring the reality that SVOD access alone does not guarantee universal compliance.

This would appear to be a problem in China — a vastly undertapped home entertainment market largely due to long-term systemic piracy. The Communist behemoth, which practices free-market ideals (to a point), is also on Netflix’s radar for potential service expansion.

CEO Reed Hastings confirmed as much — including the challenges therein — in the company’s most-recent investor letter.

“We are still exploring options [in China] — all of them modest,” Hastings wrote. “That is our preference, for the next few years, if we are able to acquire the necessary permissions.”


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