Game of Thrones may be coming off its biggest year ever in the ratings, but it looks like the HBO mega-hit also set records for piracy.
Piracy tracking blog TorrentFreak, citing piracy monitoring firm MUSO, reported that the seventh season of the HBO hit drama was illegally watched more than one billion times — or roughly 140 million times per episode.
By comparison, HBO has reported an average of 32 million viewers watching each episode for season 7 so far via legal viewing (though that number only counts the show’s domestic U.S. audience and not how many people watch GoT worldwide through HBO’s other authorized networks).
The illicit sharing was almost certainly boosted by two episodes leaking online several days in advance. Neither leak was the result of the much-publicized hack of the company, where hackers threatened to release GoT episodes in the press (and actually did leak episodes of several other HBO shows). For better or worse, both episodes leaked from HBO’s overseas operations — and in one case, four people in India were reportedly arrested in connection with the leak. Either way, MUSO’s CEO and Co-Founder Andy Chatterley told TorrentFreak that the leaks boosted the piracy — noting, for example, the leaked sixth episode was pirated more times than the season finale.
Interestingly, the vast majority of the GoT piracy was not from traditional file-sharing torrents but rather from sites hosting posting unauthorized streaming video of the episodes.
The piracy comes despite HBO’s considerable efforts to clamp down on illegal sharing of the Emmy-winning series in recent years. HBO typically makes new episodes available worldwide on roughly the same day and launched a standalone streaming service (HBO Now) that doesn’t require a cable subscription. HBO had no comment.