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April 02, 2013

Game of Thrones Creates New Swarm Record on BitTorrent

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Easily one of the biggest events on television in the last couple of months was the season premiere of the HBO series "Game of Thrones". But one place that it seems to have proven an even bigger hit than expected is with the piracy community, which has propelled the first episode to impressive new heights and brought with it several records.

The reports feature massive numbers; the file itself containing the season premiere now holds the record for most simultaneous downloaders, with the OpenBitTorrent tracker pegging 163,088 people sharing one single torrent, 110,303 sharing a complete copy and 52,786 still downloading. By way of comparison, the previous record was held by a season premiere of the NBC series "Heroes," which brought in a swarm numbering 144,663. That's fully 18,425 more people showing up for the "Game of Thrones" premiere. Some estimates suggest that the newest episode has already been downloaded over one million times.

That's a lot of piracy, and as it turns out, there are several reasons behind the piracy. One is a matter of geography. Looking at some of the component numbers makes an excellent explanation of at least some motive behind the huge total number; Australian users represent the highest total rate of piracy, as expressed, reportedly, by a percentage of the population. By raw numbers, Australia accounts for the third highest total number. When it comes to cities, meanwhile, London comes in as the highest number of pirate users. Basically, users in countries that aren't the U.S. have to wait for "Game of Thrones" to come to them via regular channels, so these users turn to piracy to get what they can't get elsewhere. HBO is working to close these gaps, but for some users, any gap is too long.

It's not just geography concerns, either, as many users--especially United States users--turn to BitTorrent (News - Alert) to get access to a show that can only otherwise be had with an HBO subscription. Sure, some programs might eventually make their way to iTunes or Amazon Instant Video or even Netflix, but a combination of uncertainty and waiting doesn't bode well for users who want to just see "Game of Thrones."

Perhaps most interestingly of all, HBO isn't really in a hurry to shut down the pirates. Despite what some might believe, HBO--as expressed by recent remarks from company programming president Michael Lombardo--don't believe that the piracy poses a significant threat to DVD sales, and even reportedly regards the piracy as something of a compliment, suggesting that the piracy helps to generate the necessary buzz to keep the series popular enough for a third season.

It's downright amazing how many people are turning to other channels to get access to "Game of Thrones." But one thing is clear, the piracy isn't hurting HBO. It isn't hurting "Game of Thrones," either, and the series that was the most downloaded of 2012 is likely to make its way to most downloaded of 2013 besides.

Edited by Brooke Neuman
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