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Game of Thrones repeats as most-pirated TV show

Categories: Arts & Entertainment

mi-game-thrones-04788736.jpgPeter Dinklage and Sophie Turner in HBO's Game of Thrones, which repeated as the most-pirated television show this year. (Helen Sloan/HBO/Canadian Press file photo)

(Note: this post does *not* contain any story spoilers for the latest season of Game of Thones or the Ice and Fire novels.)

A new report says millions of fans continue to pay the iron price for their favourite show.

Game of Thrones, HBO's blockbuster television show based on the Song of Ice and Fire novels, has a dedicated fanbase equally entertained and horrified on a weekly basis for the past three seasons.

But it's also acquired a more dubious honour: it was the most-pirated show for the second year in a row, with more illegal downloads than any other program.

According to TorrentFreak, Game of Thrones' Season 3 finale "Mysha" was downloaded 5.9 million times, while only 5.4 million watched it on television.

Breaking Bad's series finale came in second with 4.2 million downloads. The rest of TorrentFreak's top 10 single episode downloads include The Walking Dead (3.6 million downloads), The Big Bang Theory (3.4 million downloads) and Dexter (3.1 million downloads).

Interestingly, Game of Thrones' estimated number of downloads was higher than the estimated number of people who watched it on their televisions via presumably legitimate cable subscriptions. The Breaking Bad finale, by comparison, enjoyed more than 10 million on-air viewers.

The show based on George R.R. Martin's novels has been breaking piracy records on a regular basis. The Season three premiere was downloaded more than one million times within 24 hours of airing on HBO, and Season two enjoyed an average 4.3 million downloads for each of its 10 episodes.

Despite these gigantic numbers, a number of show runners and network producers have gone on the record, and don't seem to have a problem with its millions of fans getting their fix via Bit Torrent instead of HBO Go.

In August Jeff Bewkes, CEO of HBO's parent company Time Warner, said Game of Thrones' download numbers were "better than an Emmy."

"Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs [subscriptions]," he said.

In February, show producer David Petrara said that illegal downloads aren't something he worries about because the program thrives on "cultural buzz." He later clarified the statement, however, saying that while the buzz was great, he was "100 per cent, completely and utterly against people illegally downloading anything," according to The Verge.

Several commentators have said that HBO's restrictive access to the show contributed to the high numbers of illegal downloads. Simply put, unless you subscribe to a cable television package that includes HBO, you won't have access to episode downloads until the DVD and Blu-Ray collections appear in stores the following year.

Several studies have shown, though, that fans who illegally download tv shows, movies and games also spend more money buying those items than those who don't download them. In the case of Game of Thrones, fans will download the episodes as soon as they air, but then purchase the DVDs when they're available, along with tie-in mugs, shot glasses, supplementary books, beer and other branded merchandise.

As PBS Idea Channel's Mike Rugnetta puts it, "that has to be a real bee in the bonnet of anti-establishment downloaders. Turns out you guys might be helping The Man."

Do you watch Game of Thrones? If you do, did you download the show, buy the DVDs or Blu-Rays, subscribe to HBO or all of the above?

Tags: Arts and Entertainment

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