‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Breaking Bad’ Most Pirated TV Shows of 2013

Free 'Game of Thrones,' 'Breaking Bad'

HBO's 'Game of Thrones' season 3 finale was downloaded 5.9 million times, according to TorrentFreak

HBO’s “Game of Thrones” and AMC’s “Breaking Bad” have the dubious distinction of being the most-downloaded shows of 2013 on illegal file-sharing services, according to piracy news site TorrentFreak.

The “Game of Thrones” season 3 finale was downloaded 5.9 million times, most within one week after it aired in June, and “Breaking Bad” — which scored record ratings for its series finale — saw 4.2 million downloads of the ep. “Game of Thrones” also took the crown as 2012’s most-pirated TV show.

Digital piracy has long been a source of concern for Hollywood and in other industries. But recently some execs have pointed out that the economic harms of illegal file sharing are mitigated by its promotional benefits.

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes this summer quipped that widespread piracy of “Game of Thrones” was “better than an Emmy,” and said HBO has been dealing with theft of its content for years. And “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan said in a BBC interview that piracy helped boost the show’s “brand awareness,” while also acknowledging it was a problem.

SEE ALSO: ‘Walking Dead’ Producer Blasts TV Execs Who Support Piracy

Such qualifications drew a rebuke from “The Walking Dead” executive producer Gale Anne Hurd earlier this month at Variety’s Content Protection Summit.

“There’s a mistaken belief by many of my peers that piracy is somehow good, that viewers will develop a habit to pay for it,” Hurd said in a Q&A at the event. “I’m not sure they really understand other than anecdotal evidence that their ratings go up that the people who pirate are not then going to choose legal downloads or legal viewing in the future.”

Rounding out the year’s top 10 most-pirated TV shows, which skewed toward cable, were: AMC’s “The Walking Dead” (3.6 million downloads); CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory” (3.4 million); Showtime’s “Dexter” (3.1 million); CBS’s “How I Met Your Mother” (3.0 million); USA Network’s “Suits” (2.6 million); Showtime’s “Homeland” (2.4 million); History’s “Vikings” (2.3 million); and The CW’s “Arrow” (2.2 million).

The piracy figures tracked by TorrentFreak include only files downloaded via BitTorrent’s file-sharing protocol, excluding illegal sharing on cyberlocker and streaming sites.

SEE ALSO: Time Warner’s Bewkes: Piracy of HBO ‘Game of Thrones’ Is ‘Better Than an Emmy’

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  1. Chris says:

    I agree that piracy has worked for me in a good way. I’m like many others that are forced to subscribe to a ton of channels with crappy programming with an exception to a few elite shows. Cable bills keep going up but quality of programming goes down so I download my shows and new shows. I did Breaking Bad starting last year and didn’t know if I would like the show. Loved it and bought all seasons now because I downloaded via torrents. I understand not everyone using file sharing in a good way. I am now a believer if I enjoy the material good enough I will buy it or delete it off my computer period. If what you download is rubbish, why would we keep it anyways? So I go for the try before I buy and I’m much happier as a paying customer and glad to give my money to those shows I really enjoy. The same applies to video games. If I really love them, I support the developers and buy the games. I’m not approving piracy for an everyday standard but if done for the right reasons I agree it is a strong marketing tool for those who don’t abuse it. Those in Germany I feel for you. I can understand why you are forced to use torrents to see shows. Hope my comments was insightful.

  2. John says:

    Pirating the first season of Breaking Bad is what prompted me to buy all the rest on DVD, so I should say it’s a powerful promotion tool.

  3. It’s because people involved in the entertainment industry are ridiculously overpaid & people don’t want to support them. What’s wrong with that? Do you really think the “Game of Thrones” creator would pay for their fans rent or college funds?

  4. Alex J. says:

    I no longer subscribe to cable. Instead, I download exactly what I want, when I want it, with nary a smidgen of guilt. Mia (below) is spot on – we want our viewing a la carte, and without commercial interruption. I have spent thousands on cable services for many years — paying for many NEVER-VIEWED channels and programs — just to have access to a few gems. Then and now, I purchase BOX SETS of better programs… AFTER seeing some or all episodes via illegal downloads. And often spread the word to the BUYING public about shows worth paying for… they at least tune in (if already have access), if not buy additional services &/or order the DVDs.

    These behaviors may not be ‘status quo’ among so-called leechers like myself, but my money (and that of others) DOES wind up on the books of those producing quality programs. Like so many, I don’t want to wait for programming and I don’t want it marred by excessive advertising or promotion. Torrent and Usenet/newsgroup offerings are nearly always available within hours after broadcast, trimmed of extraneous garbage, and often presented in a variety of quality levels (resolution, where even the smaller file sizes are quite viewable). With a decent connection, shows are ready to watch within minutes, and don’t suffer the glitches or buffering issues of streamed material. So, until the providers wise up, make this possible through their own PAID services, I will continue getting everything this way. My sister and I are disabled seniors whose entertainment is largely these programs and Internet. Make all shows available, in real time, for full download (to be saved & rewatched at our leisure), for a small fee per download — and I’m on board. Until then, count me among those protesting via uTorrent.

  5. Alex says:

    Is it really any surprise that the top-pirated shows require a significant monthly fee to watch?

  6. Marvin R. Portnoy says:

    Mia, (Farrow?),
    This is the most considered and intelligent comment on this subject! I completely agree with your notion of having an unfettered choice as to desired TV programming to stream (Narrowcasting). However, I know you’ve taken into account that the CEO’s of cable providers don’t consider their enterprises as “welfare casting” to please the subscribers, over and above the HD quality digital transmission!

  7. MarvinMonroe says:

    Many people who download a show from the Internet within a week after the original air date in the US because they don’t wan’t to wait for weeks, months or a year to watch the show on TV in their country (especially when its a dubbed version with bad voice actors – like in Germany). So it should’t be called piracy at all. Theres no possible way for most of those people to even receive any of those tv stations like hbo or amc in another country. Hulu or Netflix won’t work either, so what’s the alternative?

    I would gladly pay a monthly fee just to see all my favourite shows one day after the original release (no dub!, no sub, just play ov) but theres not one service available which provides anything like that here (Germany). Afaik its all about who owns the rights to what show in germany. And even if i would wait for weeks, months or a year to watch my favourite show on german television (doesn’t matter if its Pay-TV or Free-TV), i couldn’t even watch it in english – only dubbed in german.

    Give us a way to watch our favourite shows outside of the US a day or two after the original release – we gladly would pay a monthly fee for that!

    Btw: I download a show via Sharehoster-Services one day after the release (720p version mostly), watch it and then delete it and buy it later on Blu-Ray so you don’t lose – in fact you gain a paying customer after all! Without doing any promotion by yourself! Think about that!

  8. Joshua says:

    I feel as though people exaggerate the financial ramifications of piracy when it comes to television shows. Simply because people that pirate the shows don’t pay for cable. One or two good TV shows usually won’t change the reason or circumstance for that (whether its financial reasons or personal preference). So essentially you aren’t loosing any customers or potential customers for the vast majority of those downloads. I am not saying piracy is not without consequences. I merely believe that those consequences are over-stated, misunderstood, and/or difficult to measure.

    • Picking says:

      It’s “losing”, not “loosing”, idiot.

      • PS says:

        Well, whether it’s “losing” or “loosing”, it doesn’t change the fact that Joshua has very valid point and added more to the discussion than you, which makes you the “idiot”

  9. Mia says:

    The internet is only going to become more ubiquitous as the world’s lesser-developed nations grow and shift in their own technologies. It is my belief that this global growth should be embraced as a possible niche market. Personally, I have no desire to pay for cable television. I have never had it in my lifetime, and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on all the commercials and lesser quality television shows. I would be willing to be a customer of these TV shows, I really would, but I don’t own a television, and I have no desire to sign up for a service that would provide me with more garbage than what it is that I’m actually willing to pay for. I would gladly pay for individual programs, at a reasonable price, through some kind of streaming web interface wherein I could watch along with the other suckers who actually want cable service. I don’t want hundreds of channels of crap, I want what I want, and I want it available to watch as soon as it is aired and at my leisure afterward. I trust I’m not alone in feeling this way. There is a market here, but these CEOs have failed to respect what it is that this data is telling them and, in essence, they disregard both existing and potential customers. HBO is extremely protective of it’s content, but it’s arrogant to believe that your content is so precious that people deserve to hemorrhage their money, especially in this economy, simply to escape and watch a fantasy for an hour.

    • Ivan says:

      Totally agree. Also in Canada, the internet and the cable companies tend to be parts of the same corporation. They may be losing in the fact that I don’t have cable tv, but they do get my money from my internet monthly fees. I download the 1/2 dozen shows that I like (from various parts of the world) – if I can’t find them an specific station websites. I have no intention of paying another monthly fee for 1000s of additional shows that I will never watch.

    • Alex says:

      I agree with you 100% Mia, but unfortunately the current revenue system that drives cable TV brings them far more money than they would get any other way. It seems like that wouldn’t be the case, that they would bring in a significant amount of new paying customers by offering some kind of ala carte alternative, but the end result will ultimately be a mass exodus from cable to ala carte, and a significant loss of both carriage fees and advertising revenue.

      Simply put, they’re always going to use the model that their bean counters say will bring them the most money. And right now that’s still the traditional cable tv system

  10. Talon says:

    Grandmother Gale is still living off the success of movies from the ’80s and ’90s. I doubt if she even contributes anything by way of creativity when it comes to The Walking Dead, but she sure goes out of her way to take as much credit for it as possible, though.

  11. big daddy D says:

    GoT and Breaking Bad are AWESOME shows! The Red Wedding episode blew my mind. Can’t wait for season 4

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