I’ll have more on Netflix’s fourth season of Arrested Development later in the day or tomorrow, but The Hollywood Reporter brings the news that the new episodes had been pirated 100,000 times during the first 24 hours the show was available to the service’s users:
Within 24 hours of the show’s Sunday premiere, it had been downloaded more than 100,000 times, according to Ernesto Van Der Sar (real name: Lennart Renkema), the editor of TorrentFreak who monitors activity on torrent sites. That’s well short of the more than 1 million downloads of the season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones two months ago, but still represents a brisk rate by usual TV show standards.
The new Arrested Development included a sight gag on piracy. When the new episodes flashed back to old episodes, a watermark was included in the middle of the screen that read, “Showstealer Pro Trial Version” — the joke being first, that Netflix couldn’t afford to license old clips so it had to steal old television clips, and second, that Arrested Development was a hugely pirated show in its heyday.
Torrenting numbers are often cited as evidence of a service failure in some way. But Netflix is relatively widely available in the English-speaking world, and in its cheapest U.S. version, plans are $7.99 a month. Even if you subscribed only to watch the episodes of Arrested Development, and didn’t care about access to the rest of Netflix’s content library, that’s still an incredible bargain, compared to the $1.99 per episode that’s become the relatively standard low-definition price for episodes of comedies or dramas on iTunes and Amazon. And if consumers won’t pay those prices for content, it’s not clear what their price point is. At a certain point, the case for torrenting stops demonstrating weaknesses in the market, and starts making clear what kind of losses any kind of business, content creators included, is going to have to factor into its model.