SAN FRANCISCO – A hacker claiming to have the upcoming season of Netflix’s hit series “Orange is the New Black,” is demanding the video streaming service pay an unspecific ransom to avoid the premature release of the series.
The hacker, who goes by the name The Dark Overlord, has allegedly uploaded the first episode to an illegal file-sharing service, although the Associated Press could not legally confirm the authenticity of that uploaded file.
Netflix says that a small production vendor that works with major TV studios did in fact suffer a breach. The California company calls it an “active situation” that is currently being investigated by the FBI and other authorities.
Pirated copies of “Orange” could dent Netflix’s subscriber growth and the company’s stock price.
In the ransom note, The Dark Overlord claimed to have stolen series from other studios, too, by breaking into a single company. The purported hacker promised to also release those titles unless “modest” ransoms are paid.
Rumors 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.
When the AP contacted The Dark Overlord in February, the hacker said the purloined video wouldn’t be made publicly available after all, making the far-fetched claim that “no one really (cares) about unreleased movies and TV show episodes.”
It’s not clear what triggered The Dark Overload’s renewed ransom demands.
Netflix is counting on “Orange” to help it add 3.2 million subscribers from April through June. That’s substantially higher than the company’s average gain of 1.8 million subscribers in the same period over the past five years.
New episodes of “Orange” are scheduled for official release on June 9.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.