Netflix Subscriptions Soar in Brazil Despite High Piracy Rates

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Picking up a pirated DVD in Latin America is a bit like picking up a steaming empanada or any number of local street delicacies from a corner vendor. Of course, in big cities across the U.S., you can always count on running into a guy surreptitiously slinging a black shopping bag full of burned DVDs with laserjet printed covers, but in Latin America, it’s all brought shamelessly into the open, and local authorities are more likely to be found perusing the selection than harassing the pirate vendors.

So it seems to be a logical deduction that new subscription-based streaming services like Netflix can’t quite get the same foothold in Nuestra América as they can in the U.S. and Canada, where piracy is limited more to tech-savvy millennials raised on Napster and LimeWire.

Except not: a recent report by the BBC has actually shown quite the contrary, at least in Brazil. Of course, Netflix is notoriously protective of its official numbers, but a few independent studies have determined that Brazil is now Netflix’s fourth largest market behind the U.S., Canada, and the UK – and this is despite the fact that in addition to Jorge the pirate DVD guy, an estimated 41 percent of Brazilians are believed to have illegally downloaded content from the interwebs.

Netflix’s Chief Communications Officer Jonathan Friedland displayed his faith in humanity when he explained the service’s success in the land of piracy. “Most people don’t want to steal,” he stated. Frankly, that may be true. Netflix’s competitive monthly fees – starting at $19.90 reais, or $5 USD – bring Brazilian audiences an impressive array of international titles without the hassle of viruses or the notorious low quality of Jorge’s street DVDs.

Photo: Arthur Simoes/Getty Images South America
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Now Netflix is thanking their Brazilian power base with their first Portuguese-language original series, 3%, based on a highly successful Brazilian webseries of the same name. If you still don’t have a Netflix subscription, keep a lookout for DVD copies on your local Brazilian street corner.