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Netflix says piracy service Popcorn Time is a real competitor

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Netflix isn't just worried about HBO — it's worried about pirates, too. In a letter to shareholders yesterday, Netflix says that piracy is one of its "biggest competitors," and notably, it specifically points to one piracy service that's caught its attention: Popcorn Time. Popcorn Time's app is meant to make pirating a movie as easy as streaming one on Netflix. The app allows you to browse through an iTunes-like catalog of movies and TV shows by their posters, select one for more information, and then start streaming it after a short buffering period. It's so streamlined that anyone should be able to just pick it up and start watching.

Like Netflix, Popcorn Time makes watching movies easy

What Popcorn Time actually is is a pretty face for downloading torrents, an activity that's typically going to be illegal when you're looking for major films and TV shows. This form of piracy is far from a new phenomenon, but it makes torrenting a lot more accessible than it's traditionally been — and that gives Netflix reason to worry.

In particular, Netflix points to a Google Trends graph comparing the popularity of searches for Netflix, HBO, and Popcorn Time in the Netherlands. The graph shows the popularity of Popcorn Time rising sharply over the past six months, such that it's now on par with Netflix and far above HBO. Netflix calls the data "sobering." Of course, this is only in the Netherlands, which appears to be an outlier. Looking at global data, the graph is far different, with Netflix soaring far, far above Popcorn Time and HBO. Still, it's a sign that Popcorn Time is gaining prominence. Netflix is a great piracy deterrent because it's cheap and easy — but Popcorn Time is now making piracy easy, too. For Netflix, that's cause for concern.