Game of Thrones most pirated TV show of 2012

What makes Games of Thrones the most popular TV show to... well, let's be blunt... steal? Photo: HBO

SAN DIEGO, December 28, 2012 – While Nielsen ratings still rule supreme, there are an increasing number of ways to measure TV show popularity. The amount of delayed viewing by DVR is starting to be factored in. Social media buzz is one of the newer measures of popularity.

Then there’s how many people steal your programming.

File sharing news site Torrent Freak has release its list of the Top 10 Most Pirated TV Shows of 2012, as measured by the number of people using the popular BitTorrent filesharing protocol to download large sized files, the kind of files that would be necessary to get your hands on popular entertainment including TV shows.

BitTorrent isn’t illegal in and of itself; what’s done with it can often be illegal. And make no mistake, filesharing is illegal when someone is engaging in piracy of programs owned by someone else, whether it’s a broadcast, cable, premium cable or PPV service. That’s called stealing, boys and girls.

Nevertheless, it’s intriguing to see what programs are appealing enough that viewers want to steal them. Eighty percent of pirating occurs outside of the United States, where certain popular shows aren’t available after they air in the U.S. Thanks to social networking, the overseas audience appetite is whetted and they just can’t wait for their favorite shows.

The list is evenly split between broadcast TV and cable TV. According to Torrent Freak, HBO’s series “Game of Thrones” tops the list of most-pirated shows with 4,280,000 downloads of a single episode. The final episode of Season 2 had 4.2 million viewers in comparison.

The Top 10:

Game of Thrones: 4.28 million downloads 
Dexter: 3.85 million downloads 
The Big Bang Theory: 3.2 million downloads 
How I Met Your Mother: 2.96 million downloads
Breaking Bad: 2.58 million downloads
The Walking Dead: 2.55 million downloads
Homeland: 2.4 million downloads
House: 2.34 million downloads
Fringe: 2.28 million downloads
Revolution: 2.13 million downloads

What it is about GOT that makes it so appealing to… well, let’s say it… thieves? It’s the combination of airing delays outside the U.S. and HBO’s choice to limit its availability online to full cable subscribers. This is the excuse, anyway.

Pirated editions of “Game of Thrones” are especially popular in Australia. Fans have to wait one week longer than American fans to view the show. But there are also many American fans who are downloading the show without paying HBO’s subscription fees.

A survey earlier this year found that people who obtain movies and TV shows from the Internet through unauthorized and often illegal channels would actually prefer not to do if they were given the chance. Although cost is often cited the reason for piracy, there are three far greater priorities driving people to break the law: convenience, choice and availability. 

Skill with the technological means to do so also plays a role. The busiest pirates are men and younger viewers. Thirty percent of 15 to 29 year olds pirate entertainment programs, compared to just four percent of 50 to 74 year olds.

I also blame the sense of entitlement by so many people who fall into the Millennial generation. It’s painting a lot of people with a broad brush, but this generation isn’t used to delayed gratification thanks to indulgent parents satisfying their every whim. They want their GOT (or Dexter or Breaking Bad) and they want it NOW.

Going back to the cost issue, it also seems apparent that the older group has more disposable income, and is willing to pay for the privilege of getting their Westeros fix through an HBO subscription.

I’m at a loss to explain why two CBS half-hour comedies make the list at number three and number four. If you’ve got a clue, fill me in.


Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google+


Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities at” when quoting from or linking to this story.  


Copyright © 2012 by Falcon Valley Group

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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