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Game of Thrones gets record ratings for leaked episode

Could the leak have actually helped?

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Roar: Game of Thrones just got its biggest ratings ever — for an episode that leaked online three days early.

The HBO fantasy hit scored 10.2 million viewers for its debut airing Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET of “The Spoils of War.” That number edges out the show’s previous all-time record holder, the recent season 7 premiere, “Dragonstone” (which premiered to 10.1 million episodes and has since climbed to over 30 million viewers in repeats, streaming and DVR playback). The subsequent two episodes dipped down to about 9.2 million for their first-air runs before surging for this week’s fourth episode.

The results are a victory for the network which has been under siege in recent weeks.

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First, the script for “The Spoils of War” was leaked more than a week ago by a hacker who has infiltrated HBO and has set about releasing internal documents, emails, and content amid a blackmail and extortion scheme. Then the full episode itself leaked — not from the hacker, but from HBO’s international partner Star India. HBO insiders expressed confidence that the leak wouldn’t hurt the episode’s performance, but nobody expected a new all-time record.

RELATED: Hear the latest from EW’s Game of Thrones Weekly podcast

In fact, the leak might have actually helped the episode. Those who watched the pilfered low-resolution stream of “The Spoils of War” over the weekend took to social media to rave about the episode, with many pledging to watch it again Sunday night in high-definition on the network.

Ultimately the best defense against hackers and leaks, it seems, is making a great TV show.

More ‘The Spoils of War’ coverage:

Showrunners, director on that epic dragon battle

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on Jaime’s uncertain fate

‘Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams on their reunion: We couldn’t keep a straight face’

Gwendoline Christie and Maisie Williams on their awesome sparring scene

EW’s deep-dive recap: Best episode of the season?

EW’s Game of Thrones podcast

Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.