Does Piracy Help Game of Thrones Thrive?
by Craig Wolf
Game of Thrones director David Petrarca doesn’t mind piracy, even when it’s happening to his own show. Aside from a wild success for HBO, Game of Thrones was also the most pirated show of 2012, according to TorrentFreak. A single episode from the show’s second season was illegally downloaded about 4.2 million times, roughly the same number of people who watched the show legally on HBO.
Despite the statistics, Petrarca shrugs off the numbers, even celebrates them. During an appearance at the Perth Writers Festival in Australia, the director told an audience he believed the illegal downloads didn’t matter because it generated a “cultural buzz” and created commentary among those who watch the show, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. His comments at the festival created a media backlash across the Internet and forced Petrarca to clarify his original remarks.
He told the Sydney Morning Herald he was completely against people illegally downloading anything because nobody wins by illegally downloading content. Petrarca’s attempt to clear the air seems to contradict his original statement and vindicates the Game of Thrones community’s craving for better access to the show they love.
In 2010, HBO launched its on-demand streaming service, HBO Go. It features the network’s TV series, both past and present, as well as movies that air on the premium channel. Its structure is similar to other streaming sites like Netflix or Hulu Plus, but requires a subscription to HBO for access. That means non-cable subscribers don’t have access to a stand-alone HBO Go option. A typical basic satellite TV package starts around $30 per month with the option to pay more for premium networks like HBO. Most online streaming companies offer their services for $10 per month.
So what’s this “cultural buzz” Petrarca was talking about? On its own, Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on cable today. According to Hollywood Reporter, each episode of season two averaged 10.3 million gross viewers in 2012. Combine that with the news of mass piracy and you have a show that’s just as popular for its numbers as it is for its content, and those who want access to “Game of Thrones” outside the cable/satellite bubble are making themselves heard.
Fan-made sites like “Take My Money, HBO!” lobby for the ability to pay a flat stand-alone rate for HBO Go or even download new episodes from iTunes by encouraging users to tweet what they would pay for such a service. Even popular web comic The Oatmeal cartooned about Game of Thrones and resorting to piracy.
The unfortunate truth is, not much. In an interview with Wired, an HBO executive said that the current relationship between HBO and HBO Go is the one that works best and likely won’t be changing. Fans of the show can still purchase seasons one and two on hard copy or digital downloads, but the only way to watch a new episode is on TV of HBO Go (while also paying for cable or satellite).