The season three premier of HBO's populra fantasy drama, Game of Thrones, set multiple records on March 31, 2013. According to the ratings, the new season's premier episode viewership was 6.7 million viewers. This was a significant increase over season two's previous premier record. However, the most surprising record set by the premier was for online piracy.
According to the bit-torrent tracking website, TorrentFreak, more than 1 million illegal copies of the premier were downloaded in the first 24 hours of the premier. Within a few hours of the show's premier, according to TorrentFreak, more than 163,000 people were sharing a single torrent file. This is considered to be the most concurrent connection to a single file recorded and almost 20,000 more connections than the previous record holder.
Why are so many people downloading this show?
Simply put: Availability. HBO only allows it's shows to be viewed as premium channels available to content providers like DISH Network and COMCAST or online as part of the "HBO Go" platform which is only available to those with current cable subscription contracts. Unfortunately, this means that online content providers like Hulu and Netflix are unable to stream the show. Additionally, most international markets have to wait at least a week before the shows are made available to their viewers.
This presents a significant issue to fans of the show who are unplugged from traditional content providers. With the advent of online media outlets, like the aforementioned Hulu and Netflix, many tech savvy people are choosing to use the on-demand services instead of paying for full access. These "cord-cutters" are forced to wait extended periods of time for the release of a show on DVD and Blu-ray. Some make the choice to download the shows illegally instead of waiting.
Illustrating outdated subscription models
The record amount of first-day illegal downloads for the premier of Game of Thrones illustrates the growing rift between the outdated subscription models of large content providers and the ever evolving online consumer. As access speeds continue to increase and reliable media storage devices like Hard Disk Drives and SSDs continue to grow, the necessity for previous subscription models will decrease as users download and store the media of their choice for later consumption.If, by chance, HBO Go was available for online consumption without needing to have cable or satellite subscription would the Game of Thrones continue to break piracy records? Probably not. Research is shows that a significant portion of cord-cutters would prefer a legal way to access streaming media at a reasonable price. Not only could this increase a broadcasters revenue, but fans would no longer be burdened with improperly formatted torrents, streaming media corruption and an increasingly possibility of hard drive failure as devices are pushed to the limit.