Game of Thrones is arguably the most popular television series in the world at the moment, which is impressive consider how it only airs on HBO. The series has been downloaded an estimated 8.1 million times, and is expected to keep breaking piracy records for the foreseeable future.
The screen adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire had already impressed the internet by breaking the record for the most peers sharing the same torrent file at the same time. Some 254,114 people were uploading the series, with many many more downloading it. Interestingly, TorrentFreak lists the 8.1 million estimated downloads as being higher than the 7.1 million viewers who actually watch the show on TV.
Following behind Game of Thrones were The Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory with 4.8 million and 3.9 million estimated downloads respectively. DC superhero shows Gotham and Arrow also made the top ten list, with Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD noticeably missing.
While piracy numbers tend to alarm the TV industry, it also provides a yardstick with which the popularity of a show can be measured. Many shows are pirated simply because they are not available in certain countries, occasionally due to objections to the content; like in the case of the violence and nudity in Game of Thrones. Some shows also suffer from appearing later in some markets, which makes it very tempting to download episodes instead of waiting an extra week or two to find out what happens next.
Whatever it is, these piracy numbers do not appear to be affecting the viewership of the TV series; especially since Time Warner doubled its profits from Game of Thrones, despite all the people downloading the show.