Game of Thrones Sets Record as the Most Pirated TV Show for 2013

Extraordinary demand to see the seminal HBO series' third season premiere translates into massive amounts of illegal file-sharing

By Josh Grossberg Apr 02, 2013 6:11 PMTags
Game of Thrones, Lena Headey Helen Sloan/HBO

It's a dubious honor the makers of Game of Thrones will take—though they'd also like your money as well. 

Sunday night's premiere of the third season of HBO's acclaimed fantasy drama now ranks as the most pirated TV show of the year, according to, which tracks such data.

The website revealed that Game of Thrones broke the record for the most times a single torrent has been shared by so many people from around the globe—160,000 simultaneous peers as of press time.

The previous record holder for the largest BitTorrent swap belonged to the season three premiere of NBC's Heroes way back in 2008, which racked up 144,663 peers.

The folks at TorrentFreak also reported that if you add up all the different torrents now available online from Sunday's premiere, the new Game of Thrones episode has already been illegally downloaded over a million times.

And we haven't even mentioned the milestone the fantasy series reached last year when it garnered 4.3 million downloads per episode, making it the most pirated TV program of 2012.

Breaking that down further by location, the majority of the downloads occurred in the United States, which had a 12.9 percent piracy rate, followed closely by the U.K. and Australia at 11.5 percent and 9.9 percent respectively.

Ironically, all the pilfering hasn't hurt HBO's bottom line.

In fact, the pay cable network's programming president, Michael Lombardo, told Entertainment Weekly that DVD sales for Game of Thrones' second season are soaring, making it HBO's top-earning program in spite of the record-setting piracy.

"I probably shouldn't be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts," he said about the illegal downloading. "The demand is there. And it certainly didn't negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network."

He was quick to add that HBO does try "to stop piracy when we see it happen," though by targeting people who sell pirated copies on a "systematic basis," not necessarily individuals.

Game of Thrones cocreator David Benioff, on the other hand, lamented the crimp piracy puts on his budget, especially given the better special effects the production would be able to afford if all those downloading the show gave 99 cents per viewing. 

"You do kind of think, God, if we just had a little bit of that, we could have had that extra scene with the dragons," he told CNN's Jake Tapper a few days ago.

Unfortunately, HBO doesn't allow such a price-per-download option, as Game of Thrones is only available to HBO subscribers through its cable channel and HBO Go on-demand service.

Either way, Game of Thrones fans have a lot more of the sword and sorcery epic to look forward to, as HBO announced today it has renewed the series for a fourth season.