Netflix’s semi-original series Arrested Development has a piracy problem, and no, I’m not talking about—SPOILER ALERT—Lucille’s trial over stealing the Queen Mary.
Various episodes from the fourth season of Arrested Development were pirated over 100,000 times within the first 24 hours of the season’s Sunday debut, according to TorrentFreak, which regularly tracks file-sharing stats.
That’s not too shabby for a show with a niche audience that was cancelled by Fox seven years ago, but Arrested Developments piracy numbers are just a drop in the bucket compared to massively popular shows like Game of Thrones. The debut episode of season three for HBO’s fantasy adventure saw one million downloads in a single day, for example.
“I think the piracy numbers for Arrested Development do not really stand out,” Torrentfreak editor and piracy expert "Ernesto" told PCWorld. “They are far below cable shows such as Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and Dexter. This was totally expected, as it's easier and cheaper to access Netflix content for most people.”
Netflix has not yet responded to our request for comment.
Digging into the numbers
Ernesto posed an interesting question, however. Would the piracy numbers for Arrested Development be different if the show ran on a cable network?
The major difference between Arrested Development and normal television shows comes virtue of Netflix's being an online, on-demand service—one that doesn’t have a broadcast schedule built around airing shows once per week in set primetime slots. Instead, Netflix releases seasons of its original programming all at once, allowing you to watch one show per night or scarf down an entire season in one or two sittings.
Would Arrested Development have seen 100,000 (or more) downloads each and every week if it was released on a normal network? There’s really no way to know the answer to that question, but it’s an interesting thought experiment nonetheless. Those 100,000 downloads don't seem quite as scary when you consider that they're spread across Arrested Development's 15 separate episodes, for an average of 6,666 downloads apiece.
Even still, 100,000 downloads in a day is nothing to sneeze at, especially since Netflix offers one month free trials that would allow pirates to watch the show legally.
Torrentfreak's data shows that the downloads aren't occurring in areas outside of Netflix's reach, either. Overwhelmingly, Arrested Development pirates come from countries where Netflix is available. Out of the top five Arrested Development piracy countries only one—Australia—doesn’t have Netflix. The rest of the top five include the U.S. (1), Canada (3), the United Kingdom (4), and Sweden (5).