Game of Thrones Season 3 premiere sets new record for piracy

Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

A lot of people were watching the Game of Thrones premiere on Sunday. And a lot of them were doing it illegally.

While HBO reported that 4.4 million people tuned in to the Season 3 Game of Thrones premiere, an additional one million people downloaded the premiere — illegally — online, reports The Guardian. It looks like the show, which was the most pirated television program in 2012, may just continue its record into the 2013 season.

One million downloads is a lot, points out blog Torrentfreak. “These are mind boggling numbers that we’ve never seen before,” it writes.

So, why all the downloads? Besides the sword fights, fantasy, sex and dramatic plot twists that keep fans coming back for more, Torrentfreak suggests that the time delay could lead to more downloads. Currently, HBO airs Game of Thrones in the U.S. before it airs in other parts of the world, leaving fans no choice but to download the show if they want to see it as soon as possible.

Also, the show is only available to viewers with an HBO subscription — something that only comes as part of a pricey cable package. This could change eventually, as HBO CEO Richard Plepler told Reuters in March that the cable channel could consider a deal to partner with Internet providers to offer its programming for an additional fee. This would allow Internet users who don’t subscribe to cable packages to watch HBO programs legally.

And there’s a third point to consider: maybe HBO doesn’t really mind all the downloads. U.S. director  David Petrarca — who has directed episodes of cult favourites Game of Thrones and True Blood — told an audience at a Perth, Australia writer’s conference that illegal downloads didn’t really matter. In fact, they were important to help a show generate “cultural buzz,” he said.

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