‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episodes Leak to Piracy Sites Ahead of HBO Premiere

Game of Thrones
Image Courtesy of HBO

Torrent downloads of unaired episodes top 1.7 million in less than 24 hours

The first four episodes of “Game of Thrones” season five cropped up on piracy networks late Saturday — nearly a full day before HBO’s scheduled April 12 premiere of the popular fantasy series.

“Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of ‘Game of Thrones’ originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them,” HBO said in a statement. “We’re actively assessing how this breach occurred.”

The four episodes of the 10-segment season appeared on torrent sites sometime between 9 and 10 p.m. ET Saturday. Through 7 a.m. Sunday, the leaked “Game of Thrones” eps had been downloaded by more than 550,000 individual clients worldwide, according to piracy-tracking firm Excipio — and by 9 a.m., the figure was up to 778,985. [Update: By 5 p.m., downloads topped 1.7 million worldwide.]

The pirated “GoT” episodes are legitimate copies, Excipio said. According to Mashable, the four episodes appeared to come from a screener sent to reviewers (with the digital watermark blurred out) and are in 480p video format, equivalent to standard-definition TV, not HD.

“Game of Thrones” has long been catnip for illicit downloaders. The HBO original series clocked in as 2014’s most-pirated TV show, with more than 48 million episodes snagged by pirates via file-sharing torrent services, and the season-four finale hit record levels of downloads within 24 hours of air.

The “Thrones” leak comes as the Time Warner-owned premium cable network has launched HBO Now: a broadband-only service that doesn’t require a pay-TV subscription for $15 monthly, designed to put HBO on the same footing as Netflix. HBO Now is available through Apple and Cablevision — but only in the U.S.

Studies indicate that piracy, especially pre-release piracy, has a depressing effect on revenue. But there’s also a feeling among some media execs that piracy can be promotional: Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes in 2013 famously remarked that piracy of “Game of Thrones” was “better than an Emmy” as far as generating buzz.

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  1. Mary says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the deal… To leak episodes is bad, but piracy is not. It’s bad to leak episodes prior to release due to loss of income to those who made them. Many people pirate because they don’t have money, and those who really enjoys the show may still pirate, but regardless give money because they love it so much. Those who pirate are generally people who either, 1. don’t have enough money, but really likes the show. 2. got money, but isn’t that interested in it (so he would never pay for it, he’d never see the show unless he got a free copy (thanks to computers we can copy anything without cost)). 3. got money, and is really interested, but don’t want to wait for the episodes to air in his country / wait for the DVD, but he will donate money to the creators, or just buy the dvd just to show appreciation

  3. cy12 (@cy12) says:

    Why dont they organize private screenings online over secure VPN streaming instead of sending a DVD around? havent they heard of VPN ? its easy to set up!

  4. Corney Green says:

    Game of Thrones may see less pirate traffic if HBO Now wasn’t locked down by an Apple exclusivity deal, and was opened to more platforms.

  5. Dim Kotcom says:

    Guaranteed this was an intentional leak by HBO to build hype for the show.

  6. Michael Summerset says:

    With all the concern Hollywood has had over piracy, they still don’t do enough to control the handling of screeners. Screeners were the source of many pirated movies prior to the Oscars. It’s like putting a security system into your home then leaving the doors wide open. Incompetence with handling e-mail has also resulted in a lot of unreleased music getting pirated. It doesn’t do any good to try and shut down pirate sites when one makes it so easy to pirate the material in the first place.

  7. John says:

    There should be an automatic 10 year prison term for anyone who’s caught pirating movies, TV shows, cable pilot series, etc. Piracy is destroying movie and TV economy, especially for those who spent countless hours of work making these product. I feel sick to my stomach every time I read a news story about piracy. Congress need to amend piracy laws immediately to give the government greater authority to track down and punish piracy.

    • Dim Kotcom says:

      That’ll happen immediately after the new law passes that gives people who make idiotic comments on the internet 20 years in prison.

    • Michael Summerset says:

      When it comes to TV shows, most are from already aired broadcasts. There isn’t any measurable impact on revenue from those downloads because it’s mainly people who simply missed the show airing on TV. But they’re not going to go out an buy the episode they missed. The difference in this case is that these episodes came out before the show aired.

    • Richard says:

      I do hope if this is someday implemented you can watch as various family members and people about whom you care are hauled away by the RIAA/MPAA lynch mob. It is irrational and unfeasible to feel so strongly about such a largely harmless crime. It would only make you sick to your stomach if you were personally losing profit over it. In which case, give my condolences to your Lamborgini dealer who will have to hold off on selling you a new one for another week while the ad revenue accrues.

    • so your solution is a automatic 10 year prison term for 750,000 people? $31,000 per year average cost to keep an inmate. That’s $23,250,000,000 per year. Over the automatic 10 year sentence you’re requiring, it comes to $230 BILLION dollars.

      I just want you to realize how fucking dumb your idea was. You’re not allowed to contribute to the conversation anymore.

    • Michael Bren says:

      I don’t really feel like paying the taxes it would cost to imprison millions of people. This is a murky issue, at best. And ten years? You do know that some folks have shorter sentences for RAPE than that…

    • nerdrage says:

      Well this will never work. The legal system is not the right solution. Technology is the right solution. First, let broadcast, cable and DVD formats die. Movie theaters and streaming services take over all distribution. Movie theaters can provide sensory overload experiences with technology like 3D and someday, VR. Piracy can’t compete with that. Global streaming services can launch shows and movies across the world, all at once. No staggered release windows or geoblocking to inspire piracy.

  8. P.J. Lowry says:

    There is always a silver lining… if the like the show, pirates will buy merchandise, attend events and even buy stuff on DVD/Blueray if they like it enough. They’ll still make their money.

    • cy12 (@cy12) says:

      Not enough revenue to even cover budget costs.

    • nerdrage says:

      I don’t buy the “ancillary products” argument at all. The way entertainment is going, there will just be two distribution paths left after cable, broadcast and physical media all go bye bye – that’s theatrical release and streaming, both of which are healthy, piracy or no piracy.

      Theatrical movies can battle piracy with a technological arms race of 3D and eventually VR in movie theaters, creating sensory-overload experiences that you can’t replicate at home and certainly not with a friggen iPhone. If you pirate Avatar 3 and watch it on your phone, who are you hurting but yourself?

      Streaming will battle piracy another way, by eliminating release windows and geoblocking. When TV and arty movies get their first and only release on Netflix/Amazon/YouTube Prime worldwide, then everyone will have the same option to see it first without bothering with piracy.

      Sure, some people will still want something for nothing, but there will be enough people willing to pay to support the same multi-million-dollar productions we’ve come to expect.

  9. stevenkovacs says:

    A leaked press screener with SD 480p picture quality? *pass*

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