Season 3 of Game of Thrones premiered on Sunday, and a day later, it would break all records for illegal downloads. Especially in Australia!
Despite HBO's best efforts at reducing pirated downloads of their hit show Game of Thrones, more than a million people have downloaded the first episode of season 3 illegally only a day after the episode's airing.
HBO had attempted to reduce pirated downloads by making the show available in overseas markets with the minimum of delays, but it appears this strategy may not have worked, as at one point, the most popular torrent for S03E01 had more than 160,000 peers connected, all trying to download the show at the same time!
And once again, Australia led the world in Game of Thrones piracy, not in raw numbers, but in the rate of piracy. Despite the island nation only having a population of 22 million, it was ranked the third most popular location for downloaders, behind the US and the UK, and with the two major cities in Australia, Sydney and Melbourne, ranking 3rd and 4th respectively in the city rankings (London and Paris were the top two). Aussies were responsible for 10% of GoT downloads, despite only representing 4% of the population of the top 5 most "piratey" countries.
So despite Australia's major subscription TV network, Foxtel, airing the show only two hours after the US air date, it appears the piracy problem has not really been solved. Not completely, anyway, but a new record was set with 224,000 tuning in to the Foxtel premier of the new season.
But while access has been improved, pricing issues may still be the main reason why so many Aussies are choosing to pirate the hugely popular show.
Foxtel subscribers must pay at least $USD 63 per month to access the channel that airs the new episodes of GoT. Similarly expensive, a season pass for the latest HD episodes is also available on iTunes for $33.99, that's $5 per episode, and to make matters worse, episodes are only available two days after the original airing. Despite these issues, the iTunes season pass for GoT is still the most popular TV purchase on iTunes at the moment, showing that many that can and want to pay, are still doing so.
For now though, HBO isn't too worried. Michael Lombardo, HBO's programming president, called the Game of Throne piracy rate "a compliment of sorts", acknowledging that this is something that people in the TV industry shouldn't be saying out loud. Lombardo also importantly noted that the high piracy rate "didn't negatively impact the DVD sales", suggesting the Internet hype that the piracy generates can still convert into sales at some point. David Petrarca, a director on the show, also made a similar observation, citing the show's reliance on "cultural buzz", and that the piracy culture feeds into this, or at the very least, adds more people to the show's loyal audience.