HBO’s “Game of Thrones” has hit a new high — or low, if you prefer — on the piracy meter with its latest episode: It has been downloaded more than 2.2 million times worldwide in less than 12 hours since airing on TV.
The first pirated copies of episode five of the current season of HBO’s popular fantasy epic showed up on file-sharing sites shortly after its initial U.S. broadcast 9-10 p.m. ET Sunday, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio. The 2.2 million individual Internet addresses tracked by the firm were recorded as of 10 a.m. ET Monday.
[UPDATE, May 12, 7:30 PT: Downloads of the “Game of Thrones” episode reached 3.22 million in the 24-hour period after it hit piracy sites, according to Excipio.]
“Game of Thrones” — a perennial leader in piracy — fell victim to an early leak of episodes 1-4 of season 5 ripped from a pre-release screener nearly a full day before the April 12 premiere. So the popularity of episode five indicates pirates who were sated from that earlier leak turned out en masse to peer-to-peer sites to grab the latest segment.
The new piracy record for “GoT” comes about a month after HBO launched HBO Now with Apple and Cablevision, a $15-per-month broadband-only service that doesn’t require a pay-TV subscription. HBO Now is available only in the U.S. for now — but the fact that America remains the No. 1 country for “Game of Thrones” piracy shows that even an over-the-top Internet offering won’t necessarily put a damper on digital pilfering.
“Thrones” previously set the one-day piracy record with its season four premiere, which registered 1.86 million in the first 24 hours after air. For HBO — and other TV networks as well as movie studios — piracy has been intractable and is clearly something they wish would go away. Still, industryites have tried to see the silver lining, viewing piracy as building buzz to potentially garner legitimate audiences: Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes, for one, famously quipped two years ago that piracy was “better than an Emmy” in generating awareness.
[UPDATE: The top five countries for piracy of the latest “GoT” episode in the 24-hour period after initially hitting pirate sites were: the U.S. (273,468 downloads); the U.K. (202,482); Brazil (196,853); Australia (176,207); and France (173,213), per Excipio.]