“Game of Thrones” broke ratings records for HBO in its latest season, but it paled in comparison to the amount of people watching the show illegally.
With its seventh season plagued by hackers, the popular fantasy show was pirated more than 1 billion times, according to anti-piracy firm Muso. HBO may want to start hunting down some of these phony subscribers, because “Game of Thrones” was routinely watched illegally 10 times more than it was watched legally.
Its season finale set an HBO overnight record with 16.5 million viewers, which still came in at a fraction of the 143 million people that illegally streamed or downloaded the episode. As of Sept. 3, the most pirated episode was the season premiere, with more than 187 million global streams and downloads. Altogether, “Game of Thrones” was illegally watched 1.03 billion times this summer.
“Game of Thrones has become one of the biggest global entertainment phenomena of today and activity across piracy networks has been totally unprecedented,” said MUSO CEO Andy Chatterley in a statement. “In addition to the scale of piracy when it comes to popular shows, these numbers demonstrate that unlicensed streaming can be a far more significant type of piracy than torrent downloads.”
The group behind the hacking scandal, dubbing itself “Mr. Smith,” demanded $6 million in bitcoin from HBO to stop the release of “Game of Thrones” and other shows, like “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” HBO decided against paying off the hackers.
“Leaks, spoilers and indeed illegal downloading do not affect the desire to view live among fans who are committed to seeing episodes as soon as they air, whether it is a popular series such as ‘GoT’ or a cult favorite such as ‘Supernatural,'” Rhiannon Bury, an associate professor at Athabasca University, told TheWrap last month.
HBO wasn’t the only major studio impacted by piracy this year. Hackers released the entire fifth season of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” ahead of schedule, after the streaming giant scoffed at paying a ransom.