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Right now on The Pirate Bay, thousands of people are downloading the first two seasons of Game of Thrones.
To anyone at HBO paying attention, that’s probably a big deal. People pirating Game of Thrones tend not to be people paying to watch Game of Thrones — at least in theory.
But to director David Petrarca, that kind of piracy doesn’t detract from his show’s success. It adds to it.
At the Perth Writers Festival in Perth, Australia last weekend, Petrarca said that the piracy factor for shows like his is negligible because Game of Thrones capitalizes on the amorphous “cultural buzz” that surrounds it. As far as I understand it, this means that any sort of piracy is good as long as it makes the show more culturally popular. This is bigger than just ratings.
And he’s probably right. Game of Thrones is the most pirated TV show of 2012, which means that a lot of people have seen the show that weren’t willing to pay for an entire cable subscription to do so.
Grabbing more eyeballs, no matter what the context, has significant effects on the overall popularity and cultural pervasiveness of a show. (For example, I’ve never watched a single episode of Game of Thrones, and yet I still snicker when I see a “Winter is coming” meme. You can’t even buy that sort of cultural ubiquity. )
As with most things involving HBO, this conversation is one that unavoidably ties into the dicey subject of à la carte TV pricing, which Cablevision brought back into the news just yesterday.
The conversation is, by this point, pretty well understood: The “have it your way” millennials want television subscriptions on their terms, and the “have it our way” media and cable companies want to keep raking in the cash with existing business models.
No matter how you slice it, you can clearly make a lot of money in figuring out how to bridge the gap between the two.