Game of Thrones: Is Pirating Helping or Hurting?

By Leah Kaminsky on Jun 8, 2013 to Game of Thrones

pirates-got4.28 million. That’s how many times each episode of Game of Thrones was downloaded last year. To give you some perspective, that’s the equivalent of every person in Iceland, the Bahamas, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Grenada, Tuvalu, Nauru and Vatican City throwing their hats into a pirating ring. Granted, each of those countries/sovereign city states is tiny (and I couldn’t resist throwing in an image of the pope cheering on Dani’s dragons, possibly with a bowl of popcorn on his lap), but roll with me here.

While the show’s mass pirating is hard to ignore, what’s controversial is whether or not it’s actually helping or hurting the show. Many international viewers, for example, can’t legally view the show until a good year after a season finale (though this is changing, with legal streaming now available in 176 countries), and pirating at least extends and strengthens the fan base, something that can turn into revenue further down the line through merchandising and DVD sales. The same goes for viewers who don’t have access to HBO even within the US. So is pirating good? Bad? Somewhere in between?

The Bad

The downsides of pirating the show are obvious. With fewer people paying, less money gets back to the show—something that can be difficult for those involved with the show to stomach. Co-creator Jack Tapper, for example, has spoken wistfully about the special effects he could create if those downloaders paid just 99 cents.

The actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau, who plays Jaime Lannister, expressed similar sentiments in a recent BBC interview, stating, “At the end of the day it’s stealing. I know it doesn’t feel like it but it is, and it’s not right.”

The US ambassador to Australia, the country that is one of the biggest illegal downloading culprits, agreed, calling it as “epic and devious as the drama” and urging a cease and desist.

pirate-bay

The Good

While illegal downloading has the potential to ruin less popular shows, HBO already makes quite healthy profits from the show, and illegal downloading seems to generate further momentum. The show’s director, David Pretarca, has credited pirating with creating “cultural buzz”. Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte, has called it a “backhanded compliment,” and producer Michael Lombardo has made similar comments.

It’s likely that illegal downloads would decrease sharply if HBO added a digital streaming service, as many of the piraters are located outside of the US or sit within the young, heavily male demographic that’s increasingly eschewing traditional cable packages for online consumption. It’s also likely that many users downloading from pretty sketchy websites would appreciate the digital security that comes with an official site.

But while such a service is often alluded to, HBO has been slow to bring it to fruition, as they would have to lower their prices to compete with other streaming services, a move that might undercut their cable subscription. Though this may be where TV is inevitably headed, the network seems hesitant to make the first move.

So, is pirating helping or hurting GOT?

The answer, it seems, is mixed, though it tells us a lot about the kinds of issues that popular shows are bound to face as more and more viewers move online and international audiences expect faster turnarounds.

Do you pirate GOT? If so, why? And do you think you’re helping or hurting? Let us know in the comments below.

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58 Comments on "Game of Thrones: Is Pirating Helping or Hurting?"

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Rauz
Guest

I meeeean, these ppl’re still rich ass bitches, so idk is it that bad.

Greg
Guest
I would also pay to have HBO-Go, or at least GoT episodes legitimately, without having to have cable. It’s time for a new model in the home entertainment market! Netflix is starting to shake things up with their Emmy nominated shows giving a little competition. HBO needs to adapt to changing market demands, or they may find themselves circling the drain. I know you’re afraid of losing your revenue stream, but don’t allow yourselves to be threatened by big cable! There are plenty of cable-cutters who want to actually give you money for your product. Maybe more would follow suit,… Read more »
Greg
Guest

It’s now a reality! Get HBO Now on your Apple device. Or wait six months, and get HBO Now on your other devices.

fuckoff
Guest

Go pirated or die! Noone gives a fuck about big corps geting less money they sit on piles of it. They are overpaid nazi cunts anyway.

LittlebabyJESUS
Guest

@JackTapper ISO full HD episodes for $.99.

Robert Stout
Guest

We’ve ditched cable. If I could pay for HBO Go by itself and stream GOT, I would. Or, if I could pay $.99 for an episode, I would. But, I can’t. I DO buy the DVD’s, so if I find a site that has last night’s episode, I figure we’re even.

Lonestar
Guest

Dear Jack Tapper. Where exactly can I download an Episode of Game Of Thrones, to my iPOD/PHONE, for $0.99?

Greg
Guest

I think it was a hypothetical statement.

earonesty
Guest

If they actually offered it for sale, then yeah, pirating would be bad. But they don’t, they use at as leverage … so pirating is, imo, absolutely fine. Supporting corporations in “market levarage” has nothing to do with supporting the artists who made the show. And big corporations steal enough from the world for me to have absolutely no compunction about stealing back.

John...
Guest

People who illegally download music etc., are people who would never have purchased it anyway, but would simply do without it if it were not available for free in some other way.

The recording industry and others are not losing any money they would never have made in the first place.

Mike
Guest
The only reason I pirated GOT first season because I wanted to see the show but I dont have HBO and will not pay for a subscription to watch 1 show. So with that being said I pirated the first season (only a couple episodes) and loved it so I pirated the rest of the season until my shipment of Season 1,2,3 came from amazon. So in other words that means yes I bought all 3 seasons after pirating. If you could pay for each episode online individually would I? Of course if it was reasonably priced or what HBO… Read more »
earonesty
Guest
Same happened to me. I bought seasons 1 and 2, but 3 wasn’t being sold. So I pirated it. HBO wants to be a status symbol. But that kind of marketing is rude. And although I wouldn’t steal from someone for being rude, corporations aren’t people. Thus rude corporations just dip below my moral radar. The world series was similar. I proxied my ip through France so I would watch the Euro version live. I would have happily paid MLB to watch live, but it wasn’t on their site.
Greg
Guest

Part of the problem is that HBO is being held hostage by the cable companies. If they offered HBO-Go to non-subscribers, the cable companies would (threaten to) drop them like a hot potato.

Mike
Guest

I also forgot to mentioned after buying the 3 season I also went on Steam and bought The Game of Thrones game.

Rob Booth
Guest

I can legally watch GOT on Sky in the UK but I chose to d/l a 1080p rip of it to watch at my leisure. I struggle to understand what difference this makes, I suppose I miss the ad breaks out but I would no pay attention to these anyway.

Dan
Guest
Yes i pirate the show every week. I also have bought every season on DVD and over 200 dollars in merchandise, as well as getting about 12 different ppl as into it as i am. They have all purchased some form of merchandise, one even got HBO, and many bought the books too. Sounds worth it for HBO to me. I’m not going to by Television just to watch GoT, the Walking dead, Daily show, and colbert report. almost everything else on tv is garbage and i can watch 2/4 of those shows for free legally. the other two i… Read more »
Dan
Guest

buy*

Paul
Guest
i’d gladly pay the 99 cents… if HBO.com offered each episode for 99 cents I wouldn’t have pirated a single thing. Quit being greedy. All the studios fought Redbox for the devaluation but guess what, Redbox stopped me from pirating movies because its simple and at a realistic value. Each season would probably cost $20 at Best Buy, if I stream it straight from HBO at 99 cents a pop, you get $10 per season per customer. Thats not bad considering theres no packaging, distribution, retailers or wholesalers. Just you and me HBO, lets make it simple.
earonesty
Guest

They’re $2 at amazon.

Meow
Guest

i have all HBOs but i don’t have time to watch it when the GoT is in air, so i download it later, when i got time

San
Guest
I’m from Argentina, I don’t watch tv and to have access to HBO I first have to pay something like 40€ per month for regular cable tv and 10€ extra for HBO. Since I don’t watch tv i find it stupid. I’m a big fan of True Blood and Game of Thrones, but 50€ per month, just to watch 2 series it’s really too much. Since nobody cares about south america, we have to wait years to get a show aired. I remember I had to wait something like 6 months to watch the final ep of Sex and the… Read more »
Patriciaenola
Guest

You are getting a raw deal = along with the rest of the fans in South ~America – I am just gutted to hear of THAT

Erika
Guest

Why not buy a DVD recorder? The prices have come down over the years. Of course now they also have a copy protection so you can NOT tape of the TV like it was with the VCR’s. At one time they said you could tape once from your tv and that was it. It turned out to be a myth. If you have a DVD recorder you have to buy and hook up an External Tuner which can be bought on the Internet

Erika
Guest

I bought the first 2 seasons when they first where released on DVD because of the lower price before price goes up. I believe if shows where made more affordable to buy people would buy them more. Does pirating hurt. I don’t believe so because I buy a lot of movies the day they come out. I do think it would be nice if the price on Blu rays would come down a little more.

Bobby Twoface
Guest
I DO support Pirating HBO shows and any other series that region locks there shows. I live in Canada and am quite sick of going through my whole life knowing that all the best shows are being shown on american channels while we have to wait YEARS? for the same show…. Sons of Anarchy Season 1 started last year in Canada… Season 5 in the US… Justified Started last year… Season 4 in the US… GTFO… That kind of laziness… i mean some guy with a 100 dollar pvr can put up a DAMN good version of a show an… Read more »
Bobby Twoface
Guest
Another thing, some people just want to watch the show… Put out 2 types of dvd boxsets.. 1 with barebones 1 dvd with the shows…thats it… and have it come out the week after the show ends… if the networks cant pay you for the pirated copies…then stop giving them the rights to your show for years and years….it could have a black and white cover with the title in black text… then do the special “oohhh so pretty version” later on… maybe a steelcase version because steelcase’s are way cooler/stronger/eyecatching…. anyway alot of the tv/movie/game marketing people really suck… Read more »
DeJoo
Guest
TV & movies are monopolies. No competition, no fairness for the public. Perfect example is having to to have a monthly subscription for a private channel. A new system is necessary. How often does one buy a book and then share it or gift it. The system doesn’t work. I agree with the quick fix of instant streaming for a fair price. Who wouldn’t pay a buck an episode? Then, you couldn’t even keep it !! So simple, yet there must be a reason they don’t offer it; perhaps to force you into a subscription. In turn, a subscription gets… Read more »
Sam
Guest

i download because i want to watch them now. as soon as the box sets are out and down to a reasonable price i go in and buy them.

Claudine
Guest
The only reason I don’t pirate is because I am fortunate to have a mother with HBO, so I have access to HBOGO. We hate going about it this way because none of my family wants cable, just HBO. We are all too busy with work, school, sports, etc to watch enough shows to make paying for cable worth it, and we all know that cable is pretty expensive. If HBOGO was able to be purchased/subscribed on its own, perhaps in a way similar to Netflix, it would happen in a heartbeat. Until that happens, however, we have to pay… Read more »
Hannah
Guest
I downoad Game of Thrones and about 40 other shows and I don’t feel bad about it for a number of reasons. First, I get french and swiss television, which means if I want to stick to legal options, I either get not-so-good to lousy shows with terrible dubbing, episodes not always aired in the right order and at least 2 years after the were initially aired in the States (that’s for free public TV) OR a few good shows with terrible dubbing (it is torture to watch Game of Thrones in French I can swear), aired in the right… Read more »
Baramos x
Guest

Probably has a fairly neutral affect, like most “controversies”.

I know it has apparently not affected their Blu-ray sales.

dawgs
Guest
I honestly think that pirating atm is fairly ok. It shows the industry they have to step up the game and meet the customer, instead of hauling rear parts behind technology and current culture. The internet has made especially tv/movies and music instantly accessable world wide, but the companies refuse to change business model to the new age and technology, at the expense of fans and customers. When half your customer base is put restrictions on access, and then find their own way you cannot blame them. Its been over a decade and the industry still havent learned much from… Read more »
Bradley J McDowell
Guest

I have promised myself that when the series is complete, I will buy the entire chronology on Blu Ray (Or whatever the norm will be by that stage), so why should I have to pay for the same thing twice? I also live in Australia, where the lack of accessibility to the show is absurd; you need Showcase, for which you need a movie package, for which you need Foxtel (our equivalent of satellite television).

Aurélie
Guest
I’ll admit I am pirating GoT, but mostly because the show is available on french channels only in French, and french dubs are terrible. I totally agree that piracy is stealing, and that the creators/directors/actors have to be rewarded for their hard work. That is why I bought the dvds as soon as they were released. But I don’t have the patience to wait more than a year for them without enjoying the show. I don’t really know how it works and I may be naive, but I think HBO won more money from me buying the dvds (and lots… Read more »
earonesty
Guest

There is no “on the other hand”, people who pirate actually buy more than people who don’t: http://bit.ly/XXHw51. It’s even true that the same person who doesn’t pirate today, will buy more if they start pirating. In other words: pirating creates consumption.

Aurélie
Guest
Statistics are just raw numbers. The article you linked states it at the beginning : with the same data, there have been different interpretations. But for the sake of the argument, let’s say that pirate do indeed spend more money than others (I am pretty sure I did), you can not honestly assume 100% of them do ? I know a lot of people who download illegally because they don’t want to pay, ever. And it works for music too : you’d may be surprise but some of those people do prefer listening to their dled music at home rather… Read more »
maukamakai
Guest

Sure there are some. But *on average*, they are your best customers. There will always be some who take more than they pay for. And there will always be some who take a little and pay a lot. Suing and attacking potential customers, instead of providing more & better stuff to buy, is a mistake.

Aurélie
Guest
Maybe it is a cultural thing then, but I can assure you in France, a lot of people are watching GoT. 98% of the people I know that are watching it dowloaded it. Maybe if bying one episode was available, it would be less, but I sincerely doubt it. Why ? Because as soon as people know I bought the dvds, here’s always the same question : “Why would you buy them ? You have them on your computer ! How silly can you be for spending money for something you already got for free ?” I have to justify… Read more »
Patriciaenola
Guest

Vous parlez anglais très bon Je souhaite que mes Français aient été aussi bonsque celui

Avec amities – Patricia l’hiboux

Isnogood
Guest
You wanna stop me from pirating game of thrones? SImple make it possible to purchase the Individual episodes online .I just want to watch game of thrones not pay for a subscription for a tv channel. I almost never watch television. And ofcourse release it faster then the pirates and make it just a easy as downloading a torrent. For example I never pirate games anymore on the pc. Because most of my games i buy through steam. So long as there is not something like that available… I will just pirate the episodes and wait until season 3 is… Read more »
Patriciaenola
Guest

Isnogood dear – you are fine IMnsHO – I think HBO should make individual episodes available and to watch on line – I watch online – I NEED AND do not get subtitles though – Do tiy agree with me isnogood when I mention that they are not doing enough for regular fans – BTW – I like your post

Patriciaenola
Guest
I do NOT pirate – if I could not get GOT on my TV – at what so ever time the USA permits me to see the show – I would be unhappy I would hate – but then I would always go without and read the books. Pirating by definition is stealing – I watch when I am permitted and also buy the DVDs. I am not wealthy – but I have a pension, and a works pension, and being a person of intelligence I have many interests and several languages. Thinking of the people who are unable to… Read more »
jim
Guest

your interest in english from what i have read is pedestrian.

Patriciaenola
Guest
I have offered an opinion – is all – it was a candid opinion – albeit written in haste , BUT If I use the word pedestrian however, I understand what the word means – do you also understand it – or are you making heavy going of decrying a candidly expressed opinion or are you only trying to be sarcastic – at this point – your reply to me, seems to lack coherence and meaning – I was upset at the claim of Piracy set forth by HBO – and had hoped to open up an interesting discussion on… Read more »
CA
Guest
Dear HBO producers and actors, it’s really simple: I want to watch Game of Thrones episodes *now*, and I cannot do so through regular channels (no HBO in Germany), so I go through irregular channels. I do not want to wait a year or so to watch a dubbed version on German television, or to buy a DVD, and I don’t see why I need to be forced to wait for that time or use these channels. If the producers or actors of the show don’t like that: change the situation. Insulting the fans of the show is not gonna… Read more »
Steffen
Guest
I live in Denmark and I have an account on HBOnordic which I pay for. So I can watch it legally… but I often pirate GOT because the show isn’t available in Denmark before Monday – and not Monday Morning… it’s typically available around noon. I’m a very big Game of Thrones fan and I have read the books – I can’t wait that long! I know it seems silly but I just can’t. I spend so much time on Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire per week, it’s a big part of my life. If… Read more »
SerTahu
Guest
Because the show airs in Australia only a few hours after the US now, this is the way that I now do things: 1) Watch it on tv when it airs 2) Torrent the show so that I can rewatch it easily and on demand, as I have no access to an on demand online streaming service. 3) Buy the blurays when they are released the following year. Piracy isn’t a guaranteed loss of sale, as I know many who only download the show so that they can watch it while they wait for the blurays. I personally believe that,… Read more »
Tamara Winfrey
Guest

With technology marching forward, people will have to find new ways to do business.There are plenty of ways for HBO to sell, & for fans to legally watch once it’s worked out. Honestly I think it’s making HBO think about the future and maybe changing the entire pay TV industry. I don’t foresee an outcome that doesn’t benefit both me and HBO, so while it’s not a pirate’s life for me, I won’ fret about everyone else.

greg
Guest
The thing is, probably half or even more of the GoT fans are not from the US. They obviously want to see what all the hype is about but without acces to HBO that’s impossible. Unless they download it or stream it somewhere online. I think we can all agree that the show reaches a much bigger audience this way but i can understand why it feels like ‘stealing’ to the people who worked on the show. Some might even say it is an honour for a show to be downloaded this much. Movies are different, that will always be… Read more »
Hannah
Guest

In Switzerland one ticket for a movie, costs 17CHF for a student (approximately 18$) and 19CHF at least of you’re not studying (20$).

So here is another reason why I think downloading is not only acceptable but completly reasonable. I just don’t get paid enough to go to the cinema or buy a DVD everytime I want to watch a movie.

greg
Guest

That is pretty expensive. Here it’s about 10€ (14$) and that is a lot already.

I can understand where you’re comming from but for someone like me who doesn’t watch a lot of movies, i like to watch the ones i do want to see on the big screen and asap.

Hannah
Guest

Yeah I can understand that :)
My boyfriend has got a big screen in his room so we just wait patiently until a DVD version is available and watch it there..

Dawgs
Guest
Actually, movies here are roughly ½ a year behind releases in US. A rare few gets released worldwide, but far from all. And if youre a movie fan, you cannot go onto practicly ANY site because it will contain spoilers. So to keep up with the internet and the hobby of watching movies, I flat out have to pirate, to not have my movies spoiled by “normal life” (internet). Its retarded the way it works. I can often watch blu-ray releases before the movie is even aired in cinemas here…. It just doesnt work in a world this thighly knit… Read more »
Cian Gaffney
Guest
The main thing to take into account with this kind of issue is that the show does not exclusively have a US fanbase, despite it almost solely being aired there. I really don’t think it’s “hurting” the show per se, as most of the people who pirate it are people who don’t have any possible access to HBO anyway, therefore nullifying any benefit or deficit. Since HBO Nordic has come into play, I imagine piracy over there has decreased significantly. In Ireland and the UK, GoT airs a day later than the HBO airing on, Sky Atlantic, so that’s how… Read more »
Patriciaenola
Guest

Thank you Cian for what you have written – I have read your reviews and comments on HBO website with a lot of interest I have NEVER been sure that Europe and Australia have been treated fairly

Ella Falstick
Guest

I don’t agree with the pirating, we have to wait almost year for the next season here in the US, so what is the difference? I have season 1 & 2 on DVD. I also have season 2 DVRed until I get the DVD next year. I think that pirating is unfair to those who buying it legally. But, that is just my opinion.

bleh
Guest

Thats because your assumption builds on pirates never buying the products.

MJ Snow
Guest

I’m kind of a rule follower, so I can’t see why people in the US would need to, if they have access to an HBO subscription. That also will give you the ability to use HBO Go and whatever your cable provider’s OnDemand service is, also most of us probably are able to use DVR or Tivo as well. Outside the US, if I couldn’t get GoT through cable, I’d probably pirate it, I do find that understandable. I’m not going to lie, the idea of a little less money falling into Benioff & Weiss’s pockets makes me smile!

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