Game of Thrones is back for its final season, and there's no doubt that the "tits and dragons" fantasy epic continues to be a hit. The season 8 premiere was watched by 17.4 million viewers across all of HBO's platforms. But that number was dwarfed by illegal viewings.
Analytics firm MUSO says that the first episode of Game of Thrones season 8 totaled 55 million pirated views including illegal streams, downloads, and torrents in the first 24 hours. Even with an IP as hot as GoT, most people would rather pay the iron price and pirate than pay for HBO.
Pirates on the stream
MUSO breaks down the 55 million number thusly: the overwhelming majority (76.6 percent) came from unofficial streams of the episode, with web downloads totaling 12.2 percent of views, public torrents accounting for 10.8 percent, and private torrents comprising a measly 0.5 percent.
The analytic firm's data also pointed to India as the origin of the most pirated views by country (accounting for roughly 10 million views) and China (around 5 million pirated views), which only airs a censored version of GoT through official channels. This makes sense, given how difficult it is to legitimately access the show in these countries.
But United States, where it's relatively easy to access HBO legally, has no such excuse, but still comes in third with nearly 4 million illegal views. HBO is an expensive investment for one show, even if you can get it.
HBO can still tout record-breaking ratings even if the majority of Game of Thrones fans aren't paying a cent to watch. One has to wonder about the quality of many of the pirated streams, too, although you can't beat the value.
With popular entertainment franchises being siloed off into different services, online streaming resembles its cable TV ancestor more and more, and piracy will continue to thrive as the consumer is faced with rising costs for access to exclusive shows.
How do you see the state of piracy for TV shows and movies? Is it more of a question of accessibility, or cost?