If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones before then you may actually be lucky, because by the looks of how many times it was illegally downloaded in the last week (following a four episode leak of the brand new fifth series) the only thing I could compare the manic rush to see it with, is to a crack house full of addicts desperate for their next fix. Or perhaps a black Friday shop run, with stampedes and all. I’m really not joking.
The four leaked episodes appeared online a day before the first one was supposed to premiere last Sunday, and according to anti-piracy and security firm Irdeto, they have been downloaded a staggering 100,000 times per day ever since (and as much as 300,000 times in the first 3 hours), with easily over a million downloads within the first 18 hours! In terms of locations, a snapshot of where people have been most hungrily pirating the new episodes reveals that the US and the UK, followed by Canada, India and France are easily coming out on top as the biggest ‘Throne-heads’.
Its not just the new episodes either, in the run up to the release of the new season Irdeto noticed a 50% surge in downloads of episodes from series 1 to 4, as if the fever of knowing that the new season was arriving made ‘Throne heads’ have to start readying themselves, like hungry little squirrels preparing for winter. It’s nuts!
The pirated versions of the first four episodes were first available on private torrent tracker IPT, but it was not long before they had spread to more popular BitTorrent sites such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG and KickassTorrents.
The most likely scenario is that the first four episodes were meant for review purposes only, meaning that someone working in the media is the most probable candidate for blessing fans of the show with this quick burst of joy – giving them the first four episodes a whole day before the first was supposed to premiere. Now, of course, those eager fans that did download the leaked episodes will have that unfortunate month’s wait until episode five airs on Sky Atlantic. Clucking.
One would assume that HBO, the makers of the show (who did their utmost to stop this from happening by co-ordinating its premier to happen simultaneously in 170 countries), must be terribly angry and sad about the leak – because piracy is such a darned nuisance and cuts into viewing figures so so terribly (sarcasm intended).
You see, despite this being the biggest leak in recent memory, and despite the fact that year on year for the last few years, GOT has been the most pirated TV show around . When the new episode of Game of Thrones premiered on Sky Atlantic last Sunday, George RR Martin’s fantasy series was watched by a record audience of nearly 1.6 million people – that is a 6.7 % share of the total audience, and 43 times Sky Atlantic’s average slot over the last 3 months.
In other words, the premiere was a complete and utter success that leaves one wondering if piracy is doing anything less than hugely advertising, promoting and spreading Game of Thrones, turning it into a cultural phenomenon which it might not otherwise be if it was simply a show that some people watched on the TV… and even its makers’ acknowledge this.
Game of Thrones director David Petrarca has already admitted that piracy causes a huge ‘cultural buzz’ around the show, and even Jeff Bewkes , CEO of HBO’s parent company Time Warner, said that receiving the title of ‘most pirated television show’ was ‘better than winning an Emmy’.
While it is natural for HBO to want to cut down on piracy as much as they can, and try to grow the amount of revenue it receives from the show year on year, it is also refreshing to see admittance coming from high places regarding the beneficial effects of piracy on the show.
In 2013 Game of Thrones made rating milestones, and was the most pirated TV show of the year, and 2015 does not look like its going to be any different. So if fantasy is your thing, and you love watching popular TV shows, either get yourself online and use a VPN to obfuscate yourself as you pirate the show (like the many millions already doing so), or sit yourself down in front of a TV and watch it on one of the subscription packages available – the choice is yours.