The first episode of “Game of Thrones” season 7 was a massive success, and has been watched through official channels more than 16 million times since its debut last Sunday – the most for a premiere in HBO’s history.
But that figure pales in comparison to the number of times it has been pirated.
According to piracy analysis company MUSO, the 71st episode of the fantasy epic TV series been illegally viewed over 90 million times across the globe.
It’s a staggering figure – nearly six times as many as the official view count – and includes illegal streaming, torrenting, and direct downloads.
“Game of Thrones,” based on the “A Song Of Ice And Fire” books by George R. R. Martin, is a sprawling epic, dealing with court intrigue, fantasy wars, and dragons. It is always pirated heavily, regularly appearing at the top of “most-pirated” lists measuring illegal downloads in any given year.
The episode in question, "Dragonstone" - spoiler alert! - deals with exiled Queen Daenerys Targaryen making her return to her ancestral home, the island of Dragonstone, as the North debates the way forward after the defeat of Ramsay Bolton, and in King's Landing Cersei Lannister, newly crowned, forms an alliance with Euron Greyjoy. And if none of that makes sense, don't worry - "Game of Thrones" is famously complex, spanning multiple (fictional) continents and featuring dozens of characters.
"Game of Thrones" season 7 episode 1 was streamed 77.9 million times, torrented on public trackers 8.3 million times, directly downloaded 4.9 million times, and torrented from private trackers 500,000 times, Muso says.
Most illegal views came from the United States (15.1 million), followed by the UK (6.2 million), Germany (4.9 million), India (4.3 million), with Indonesia (4.3 million) rounding out the top five.
In an emailed statement, MUSO cofounder Andy Chatterley said: "There is no denying that these figures are huge, so they're likely to raise more than a few eyebrows in the mainstream industry, but it's in line with the sort of scale we see across piracy sites and should be looked at objectively. What we're seeing here isn't just P2P torrent downloads but unauthorized streams and every type of piracy around the premiere. This is the total audience picture, which is usually unreported.
"Audience figures have always been a critical measure for studios and TV execs to assess the health of shows. The fact that there's been over 90 million streams and downloads of the Game of Thrones season seven premiere outside of the official channels in the first three days since airing, not only shows just how popular this show is, but the massive opportunity to engage people and bring them back to legitimate mediums."
HBO isn't standing by and doing nothing, however. Piracy news site TorrentFreak reports that ISPs who have customers that are torrenting the season seven premiere are being sent warnings, telling them to change their ways.