updated 08:34 am EDT, Tue June 17, 2014
Concurrent torrent user record broken shortly after season finale broadcast
Game of Thrones has set new records for piracy, according to a report, with the final episode of the current season resulting in the largest ever recorded BitTorrent swarm. Within hours of the episode appearing on torrenting sites, over 254,000 peers were said to be sharing one single torrent at one point, beating the old record of more than 200,000 peers held by an earlier episode of the show in the same season.
Within 12 hours, TorrentFreak reports the finale was downloaded approximately 1.5 million times, resulting in close to two petabytes of data being transferred. According to the report's estimates, the pirating audience could increase to more than 7.5 million in the coming weeks, and possibly making Game of Thrones the most-pirated TV show of 2014. This badge of dubious honor was also granted to the HBO show last year.
The high piracy levels of the show exist despite efforts by broadcasters to offer it online, with users from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia featuring prominently in the download data. In the United States, HBO's own HBO GO service provides streams, though access is limited to just subscribers of cable packages including HBO itself, a service which struggled at the start of the season due to an overwhelming number of viewers. A similar access issue exists elsewhere, with viewers in Australia forced to subscribe to Foxtel's online streaming service to watch, at a price far above the equivalent series cost on iTunes. In the UK, Sky provides streams through its Sky Go app for subscribers, though it does provide non-satellite viewers a paid streaming option via Now TV.
Last year, HBO programming president Michael Lombardo called the rampant piracy of the show "a compliment of sorts," advising the piracy is "something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network." While claiming DVD sales were not being negatively affected, Lombardo was apparently concerned that pirates were not watching a high-quality copy of the show, hoping the show held up in the "purloined" version.
A Twitter-based campaign in 2012 seeking to create a standalone streaming service for HBO Go failed to make an impact on the company. While it did not explain its reasons against offering such a service, HBO refereed to an article outlining the financial impact of such a plan on the company, suggesting the loss of support of cable providers far outweighs a streaming app subscription.