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‘House of Cards’ Season 3 Pirated, With China Top Country for Downloaders

House of Cards” is a global franchise — and the political drama is popular in many countries where Netflix isn’t yet available, prompting a surge in piracy downloads for the just-released season three.

Within the first 24 hours after season three hit torrent services, there were 681,889 unique downloaders worldwide, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio. That’s more than twice as many as for “House of Cards” season two, which had 320,927 downloaders within 24 hours of being pirated back in February 2014.

For five of the top 10 countries for “House of Cards” season 3 pirates — China, India, Australia, Poland and Greece — Netflix service is currently not available (although the company plans to launch in Oz later this month).

The top 10 territories for “House of Cards” season 3 piracy were China (60,538), followed by the U.S. (50,008), India (47,106), Australia (40,557), Poland (37,552), the U.K. (32,703), Canada (27,584), France (27,151), Greece (20,551) and the Netherlands (20,402).

In addition to illicitly downloading pirated copies of shows, millions of consumers in areas where Netflix is not available use virtual private network services to access the streaming service — including more than 20 million Chinese, according to research firm GlobalWebIndex.

Netflix has set an aggressive rollout plan to expand internationally, pegging a footprint of 200 countries by 2017. As for when it might enter China, Netflix has said is still exploring “modest” options and faces a range of unique challenges. For one thing, in China Netflix needs to get a license to offer service there’s no guarantee it will be able to secure one from the government.

Netflix launched the 13-episode “HoC” season three on Friday, Feb. 27, at 12:01 a.m. PT, in most of its territories. The show stars Kevin Spacey as ruthless politician Frank Underwood and Robin Wright as his scheming wife, Claire Underwood.

It’s worth noting that in non-Netflix territories, producers have licensed “House of Cards” for TV or online distribution, including Australia and China. As such, the piracy activity stands to diminish the commercial value of those rights. “House of Cards” is produced by Trigger Street Prods. in association with Media Rights Capital, and distributed internationally by Sony Pictures Television.

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