House of Cards Is the Most Pirated Show in the World Right Now & Netflix International Streaming Rights are to Blame

house of cards season four netflix

Netflix is currently streaming in 245 global regions (countries and territories combined), which makes for some very complicated distribution rights discussions. Just because a show is available to stream in Canada, doesn’t necessarily mean Netflix subscribers in the US will have access.

But interestingly, Netflix doesn’t even have rights to stream their original series ‘House of Cards’ globally, meaning despite the series being billed as a Netflix original series, the fourth season of ‘House of Cards’ is only available in 124 countries and regions around the globe, according to uNoGS.

Over the past week we’ve had our eyes on trending data regarding piracy and ‘House of Cards’ and this month it reached its highest volume of search traffic yet regarding ‘download House of Cards’ as the Google Trends graph below shows:

We also checked The Pirate Bay’s top 100 video downloads and House of Cards is leading the way with 13,000 seeders and 5,000 leechers, 30% more activity than the next highest Torrent, The Hunger Games IV:


The series has been a smash hit for Netflix, turning a once-third party content provider into a serious player when it comes to content production and distribution.

Last January at CES when Netflix announced they were expanding their global reach into nearly every country in the world, most consumers thought that ‘House of Cards would be a no-brainer. When this turned out to not be true, people typically were able to turn to VPN services that allowed these global subscribers access to any region’s library, and specifically ‘House of Cards.’ No sweat.

Not long after this global announcement though, Netflix, certainly under the pressure of third party content providers, got tough on VPN usage, blocking access to international libraries. From their announcement:

Some members use proxies or “unblockers” to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won’t impact members not using proxies.

And as Nathan McAlone at Business Insider points out, this is likely going to continue to increase piracy.

So why isn’t Netflix original ‘House of Cards’ available in every country? The service doesn’t actually own the rights to distribute the show in every region, leaving plenty of countries and territories without the show’s fourth season. Each individual country will have different ownership, as Netflix didn’t buy the rights globally when the series was first being released. It made sense at the time, as Netflix wasn’t available in more than 60 countries. But now? They dug themselves a complicated hole.

With piracy spiking on the series, it will be interesting to see if Netflix is able to respond in a way that keeps these left out subscribers happy enough to keep their monthly subscriptions. That’s what Netflix has always been about, right?