Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

The pirate king... Game of Thrones crowned the world's most illegally watched show

Royal match: Jack Gleeson, as King Joffrey Baratheon, and Natalie Dormer as his bride Margaery Tyrell
Royal match: Jack Gleeson, as King Joffrey Baratheon, and Natalie Dormer as his bride Margaery Tyrell

Game of Thrones was the most pirated TV show in the world in 2013 – for the second year in a row.

More people are now watching the show – filmed in Northern Ireland – illegally than see it broadcast on US TV.

The final episode of season three of HBO's hit fantasy drama also set two records in internet piracy in June.

More than one million people downloaded a copy of the show in a single day, and more than 170,000 people "shared" their unauthorised copies simultaneously.

Fans were left reeling as season three drew to its shocking conclusion with King in the North Robb Stark, his pregnant wife Talisa and mother Catelyn Stark slaughtered by the Freys in the Red Wedding after accepting their hospitality.

No other show comes close to Game of Thrones in piracy terms, with 5.9 million illegal downloads this year.

According to respected website Torrentfreak, US ratings winners Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead completed the top three pirated shows of 2013 with estimated downloads of 4.2m and 3.6m respectively.

In the US, there are only an estimated 5.5m viewers who see it aired on TV, although HBO claims that it has a total audience 11.6m when 'on demand' and TV recordings are added.

Game of Thrones is only available on subscription channels, which could explain why it is downloaded more than shows which beat it in the ratings.

Piracy is also high in Australia, where screening of the show is delayed. But those behind the sex and swords drama appear not to mind the rampant piracy.

Show director David Petrarca admitted that piracy generated much-needed "cultural buzz" for Game of Thrones.

Jeff Bewkes, CEO of HBO's parent company Time Warner, told a panel discussion at the University of Western Australia that piracy results in more subscriptions – and even stated that receiving the title of "most-pirated" show was "better than an Emmy".

BACKGROUND

Game of Thrones Season Four is due to premiere on March 31, 2014 on HBO. New footage shows tortured Theon Greyjoy fleeing on a horse, suggesting he may have escaped his tormenter. Daenarys Targaryen is marching on the city of Yunkai and Tyrion Lannister is seen shackled and flanked by two guards. King Joffrey is poised to wed Margaery Tyrell, of House Tyrell, and Jaime Lannister has made it back to King's Landing, minus a hand. Meanwhile, Sansa Stark has been forced to marry Tyrion.

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