No, MPAA Isn’t Conspiring Against Netflix

Streaming giant doesn’t appear among approved services on MPAA’s search engine, provoking the tin foil hat brigade

Last Updated: April 12, 2016 @ 6:09 AM

The Motion Picture Association of America loves showing you all the places where you can legally stream movies online instead of pirating them — it just can’t direct you to the single biggest one.

In 2014, the MPAA launched WhereToWatch.com, a search engine that aggregates authorized online services that stream films and TV. The trade group had been critical of major search engines like Google for not doing enough to depress search hits for pirated content, so it launched its own place to find legal services.

But piracy news blog TorrentFreak raised eyebrows Sunday when it reported that WhereToWatch.com doesn’t return search results for Netflix, the single largest site by users for streaming official movies and television.

The reason, it turns out, is years old. In 2014, Netflix phased out its public API, which is basically an interface between websites allowing outside developers to access parts of Netflix’s database.

An MPAA spokesman said WhereToWatch.com lost its ability to retrieve hits on Netflix’s catalog with the demise of its API. The spokesman added that other sites with similar searches can still include availabilities from Netflix by “scraping” the service’s site.

“We do not do this, because it would violate Netflix’s terms of service,” he said. 

Netflix didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s message seeking comment.