Game of Thrones breaks new illegal download record (again…)
When HBOs Game of Thrones isn’t busy killing off it’s cast at a record breaking rate, it’s breaking records of another kind, downloads.
HBO have come under heavy criticism for the restricted release of the series which has collectively racked up millions of file sharing downloads every week throughout it’s 10 episode series cycles. Their decision to make their online streaming service only available to existing HBO customers is often pointed to as a cause behind the popular series being illegally downloaded as frequently as it is.
With spoilers exploding over the Twitterverse in real time as the US version airs and anything between hours and days passing before the international audience can see the same episode it’s a common complaint that the twists (read: murder of yet another cast member) in the plot are already widely known by the time those air dates\times come around.
But that gap is closing, Sky Atlantic in the UK managed to air the season premier mere hours after it’s US release. Even so, episode 2 of season 4 racked up a record breaking 193,000 people sharing a single file with over 1.5 million downloading the file over the first 24 hours. That torrent file, was uploaded and available just 30 minutes after the episode aired in 1080 HD.
HBO have sighted several reasons for the delay in international distribution, including dubbing and re-editing. Now this would be reasonable if they were running a series like Star Trek where weekly episodes were shot back to back across a 6 month period with the next episode being written while the current one was being shot. But they don’t. Game of Thrones has a painful year between seasons and it’s hard to believe that they are still putting the final touches on 42 weeks after the last series ended. Even if they are, one would assume that if they wanted to combat the piracy surrounding the show, that such dubbing and editing would take place prior to the first episode airing to enable a global release.
One episode in season 3 boasted an impressive 4.3 million downloads, that’s more viewers than some soap operas get and it’s collecting no revenue whatsoever. With Game of Thrones costing $6 million per episode, that’s revenue that HBO could really do with collecting. But unless their distribution network changes, it doesn’t like they’re going to be taking control back from the pirates any time soon.
With technology continuing to advance and file sharing piracy not showing any signs of slowing, despite government and corporate action to defend against copyright theft, simultaneous global release seems like the only reasonable course of action.
Netflix is leading the way in this with their own series being released in full across their own distribution network. House of Cards for example has broken the standard rules for TV distribution with astounding success. The model of letting viewers watch what they want when they want for a reasonable monthly charge is a resounding success for their internet distribution platform, it’s also resulted in far lower piracy rates for titles released on Netflix and it’s competitors than traditionally broadcast shows on cable or terrestrial networks.
As Game of Thrones’ popularity shows no signs of slowing, we can expect those torrent figures to keep ramping up. The question is, when will HBO and other distributors learn that the world is changing, and for the traditional week to week, locally distributed television broadcast model, winter is certainly coming.