NEW YORK • Netflix is being blackmailed by a hacker who claims to have stolen the upcoming season of its hit series, Orange Is The New Black, said reports yesterday.
The hacker is demanding an unspecified ransom from the video streaming service to prevent all the new episodes from being prematurely released online.
The Guardian daily, quoting an Associated Press (AP) report, said that the first episode had already been uploaded to an illegal file-sharing service. New episodes of the series are not scheduled for official release until June 9.
Netflix has acknowledged that a small production vendor that works with several major TV studios had suffered a breach.
The vendor described it as an "active situation" that is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other authorities.
Pirated copies of the show could dent Netflix's subscriber growth and the company's stock price, according to AP.
In the ransom note, the hacker, operating under the name The Dark Overlord, also claimed to have stolen series from other studios by breaking into a single company. The purported hacker promised to also release those titles unless "modest" ransoms are paid.
Rumours of a massive leak of Hollywood films and TV episodes have been circulating online for months, fed by purported screenshots of the footage and a copy of a proposed deal to delete the stolen material in return for tens of thousands of dollars in electronic currency.
Netflix is counting on Orange Is The New Black to help it add 3.2 million subscribers from April through June, according to the reports. The number is substantially higher than the company's average gain of 1.8 million subscribers in the same period over the past five years.
Whenever Netflix's quarterly subscriber gains fall shy of management's projections, the company's stock usually plunges.