How HBO’s Game of Thrones Fared Against Hackers and Pirates

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Despite off-screen drama, viewership of HBO’s Game of Thrones on the site’s HBO GO streaming service has been remarkably resilient. Jumpshot data indicates that six times as many unique visitors streamed the series on HBO GO than used the torrent pages on The Pirate Bay during the summer season. And those numbers have been consistently strong, suggesting that piracy hasn’t made a perceptible increased impact to HBO GO usage this shortened summer season.

To track these effects, Jumpshot tracked the online browsing behavior of our 100-million-device consumer panel. From July 1 to August 28, we measured traffic to the HBO GO Game of Thrones pages as well as the episode pages on the most common torrenting domain, The Pirate Bay, and a popular illegal streaming site,

Domestically, Strong Game of Thrones Numbers for HBO

In the U.S. especially, the show’s weekly release has reliably spiked traffic. On Sundays, US views increase to 10 times Pirate Bay’s traffic. The first and last episodes, predictably, gained the most attention among Jumpshot’s U.S. panelists.

The on-screen mayhem this season on Game of Thrones has been matched by an almost equal level of off-screen insanity, making it seem likely that HBO would be particularly vulnerable. Early in the season, reports emerged that the premiere was the most pirated show in history. Then, hackers stole 1.5 terabytes of data and subsequently demanded $6.5 million in Bitcoin from the network before leaking episodes of other shows, scripts, plot outlines, and other sensitive material.

Separately, four men were arrested in connection with an Indian site who illegally published an episode of Game of thrones. And HBO Spain accidentally made the sixth episode public days in advance, which spread online soon after.

The Spanish release ended up making a more outsized impact than anything else. Traffic to The Pirate Bay surged the day after the sixth episode was mistakenly posted to the HBO Nordic and HBO España platforms, which then spread on the internet. But even still, viewership in the US was not particularly diminished, it was about average.

Furthermore, The Pirate Bay didn’t see any remarkable surge in traffic for the last episode of the series. Indicating that HBO was able to capture most the increased appetite for itself, though YesMovies did get a bit of a bump, even surpassing the Pirate Bay’s U.S. traffic on the 27th.

Torrenting was almost always most common the day after an episode was released, which makes sense. Hype and excitement drove paying users to HBO GO the Sundays that episodes dropped, and then subsequent torrents peaked the following monday.

Game of Thrones Piracy Outside the U.S.

Globally, Piracy is a much bigger factor for Game of Thrones. In August, 90 percent of illegal downloads of Game of Thrones on Pirate Bay came from countries that were not the United States. Illegal streams on sites like YesMovies also represent a factor, 83 percent of streams come from abroad, but the traffic is more dispersed, so it’s more difficult to track the true effect of the service.

Interestingly, Jumpshot found that Greece represented the third highest amount of Pirate Bay downloads of Game of Thrones, after the U.S. and Brazil, two countries that possess the third- and fourth-largest internet populations. Greece is much farther down the list, so the fact that Greece represented a full 7 percent of all Pirate Bay downloads is startling.


Bottom Line
This season, leaks and hacks didn’t make a measurable dent in HBO GO traffic. Episodic TV, because it is released on a recurring schedule, drives hype and excitement as the seasons progress. That may make it more resistant to piracy than movies and series that drop all their episodes at once.

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