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

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

Free 'Game of Thrones,' 'Breaking Bad' Downloads Stir Piracy Debate

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’