With its popularity swelling and no easy way to watch for viewers without cable, HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” is inspiring massive levels of piracy, according to numbers from the BitTorrent-tracking and analysis firm Big Champagne. By the firm’s rough estimate, the second season of the show has been downloaded more than 25 million times from public torrent trackers since it began in early April, and its piracy hit a new peak following April 30th’s episode, with more than 2.5 million downloads in a day.
“It certainly appears to be the most pirated show of the year,” says John Robinson, a senior media analyst with Big Champagne. He says it’s too early to measure definitively, but the company’s data so far as well as the popularity rankings on download site the Pirate Bay point to “Game of Thrones” as filesharers’ favorite show of 2012. “The fact that it’s consistently at the top of the Pirate Bay’s top one hundred TV show chart seems like a pretty in-your-face leading indicator of the huge volume at which this is being shared.”
According to the BitTorrent-focused blog and measurement site Torrentfreak, the first season of “Game of Thrones” was the second-most pirated show of 2011 behind the sixth season of Showtime’s “Dexter.”
But Big Champagne’s numbers show that downloads of the second season of “Game of Thrones” so far consistently top “Dexter”‘s piracy numbers from the same point in its season last year. (See chart above left.)
It’s worth noting that BitTorrent is just one way that shows are pirated online–I was able to find streaming episodes of Game of Thrones on sites like free-tv-video-online.me and zzstream.com after just a few Google searches. But those streaming options are even tougher to track and measure than BitTorrent.
While “Game of Thrones”‘ filesharing rates are probably driven in part by its appeal to the young, geeky male demographic that’s most prone to using torrent sites, HBO hasn’t helped the problem by making the show tough to watch online for the young and cable-less. The show isn’t available through Hulu or Netflix, iTunes offers only Season 1, and using HBO’s own streaming site HBO Go requires a cable subscription. (The situation was captured in the widely read comic strip The Oatmeal, in which the author attempts the rage-inducing process of trying to watch “Game of Thrones” online before giving up and downloading it from a sleazy porn-ad covered torrent site.)
“This is absolutely a reaction to the show’s not being available elsewhere online,” says Big Champagne’s Robinson. “It’s a very tricky game trying to create this kind of scarcity.”