HBO’s fantasy saga premiere of the third season of Game of Thrones broke more torrenting records last night than the bells on Khal Drogo’s braid, the gold in the Lannister coffers, and the number of wildlings swarming into the Seven Kingdoms. Now that I’ve impressed you with my Game of Thrones knowledge, here are some actual numbers.
Hundreds of thousands of people illegally downloaded the show last night, breaking the record for the largest BitTorrent swarm in history, according to TorrentFreak.
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“Never before has there been a torrent with so many people sharing a file at the same time, more than 160,000 simultaneous peers,” TorrentFreak founder and editor-in-chief “Ernesto” wrote.
Current estimates show that the episode has already been downloaded over a million times. Last year, the popular fantasy HBO series was the most pirated TV show of 2012, with 4.28 million downloads for a single episode. Despite these staggering numbers, director David Petrarca is unconcerned. He said that pirated consumption only fuels the “cultural buzz” surrounding Game of Thrones and makes the show even more popular and pervasive.
Game of Thrones is certainly popular in the tech community, which has some crossover with lovers of fantasy fiction. You can’t throw a stone in SOMA without hearing whispers of “winter is coming,” and it is perfectly appropriate to refer to huskies as “direwolves.” Granted, when you mention you watch the show to people outside of this community, say to your mother during a Passover Sedar, it is not uncommon for them to be shocked and appalled that you would tune in to a show that espouses rape, violence, and explicit sexual content and make you feel shamed over your matzoh (this is purely a theoretical situation).
Certainly, the entertainment and buzz contribute to the high rates of piracy. However, the legal way to watch involves an expensive subscription to HBO, which involves an expensive subscription to cable, and those who aren’t real-world Lannisters (or even Lords), must resort to illegal methods to get their GOT fix. That said, HBO still has plenty of paying viewers. Sunday’s premiere attracted 4.4 million viewers last night, up 13 percent over last year’s premiere.
HBO has been hinting at making its content more accessible to common folk through its on-demand streaming service HBO Go. At a premiere event last month, HBO’s chief executive Richard Plepler said there was a possibility of selling standalone access to HBO Go as part of a bundled broadband subscription plan.
Until then, legions of fans will continue to illegally watch as the battle for control of the Seven Kingdoms unfolds. Resistance is as futile as stabbing a Whitewalker.