On Sunday night the season five premiere of Game of Thrones broke HBO’s premiere viewing records with eight million viewers who watched the episode on HBO when it premiered. These numbers are huge, considering they only reflect how many people viewed the first showing of the popular program. The amount of viewers is exponentially greater, should one take into consideration those who use Digital Video Recording (DVR) devices as well as people who viewed the show that same day at a later time.
Statistically, the total amount of viewers for a premier episode of Game of Thrones has risen 21 percent from last year’s numbers of just over 7.2 million viewers. The show’s growing popularity shows no signs of ending any time soon. It was not very long ago that a fantasy series of Game of Throne‘s type was thought to be a waste of money for networks such as HBO to pursue, generally leaving the genre to networks like the Sci-Fi Channel. Considering the boom in shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, and even the much criticized iZombie, viewers seem ready to embrace stories that used to be called “nerdy”.
The day before the record-breaking premiere, the first four episodes of season five of Game of Thrones were leaked online through torrent sites. All over Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites, were postings about how awesome it was to get to see the show earlier than expected. The source of the leaked programming has yet to be discovered fully, though users on certain sites that have shared the leaked files have been blocked from continuing. In an age when anyone with a connection to the internet can find all types of media for free, it is no wonder that Game of Thrones is the most pirated television program in the world.
It is estimated that another eight million viewers downloaded the first episode of Game of Thrones, rather than watching it through HBO. Numbers like this are considered a vast understatement of the total amount of viewers, however, as there is no way to track how many people saw the show by a friend burning a DVD for them or spreading the file like wildfire outside of torrent sites. This has been a growing problem for the entertainment industry for over a decade, ever since the infamous program Napster was released in the late 1990’s. The increase of digital piracy has led bands as well as film-makers to take a stand towards the illegal downloads, and with warrants being issued solely for the personal information associated with IP Adresses that have downloaded such copyright files, one wonders if this is the beginning of the end of piracy.
The bottom line is that Game of Thrones and other programs such as Netflix’s Daredevil are going to be seen by those who refuse to pay to see them regardless of any laws passed against digital piracy. Though, lately the owners or creators of such sites as The Pirate Bay are those who are more directly in the line of fire for prosecution teams the world over, the time of regular citizens being thrown in jail for copyright infringement seems to be at hand. While HBO’s Game of Thrones broke viewer records with its premier, it will be interesting to see how those numbers change as time goes on, with millions having already illegally watched the first four new episodes.
By Benjamin Johnson
Picture by Jim Entler – Flickr License