So says Alan Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner (parent company to the show’s maker HBO). The comment came in response to a question from investors, prompted by HBO programming chief Michael Lombardo’s statement in April that piracy should be seen as ‘a compliment of sorts’.
“I have to admit it, I think you’re right” said Bewkes. “The much-discussed fantasy series is HBO’s most popular TV show, and if you go to people who are watching it without subs, it’s a tremendous word-of-mouth thing….
We’ve been dealing with this for 20, 30 years—people sharing subs, running wires down the backs of apartment buildings. Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world and that’s better than an Emmy.”
A podcast of the conference call in which these comments were made is available here.
With illegal downloads estimated to run into millions (Season 2 was estimated to have been downloaded 4.3 million times worldwide), a very large number when you consider that average viewing figures across all HBO platforms are around 10 million, The Game of Thrones has gained a reputation as ‘king of TV downloads’.
Despite this high level of piracy, HBO does not appear to be suffering. As Mr. Lombardo put it,
“The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”