At its peak, over 300,000 BitTorrent users were sharing the first episode of season four simultaneously.
Game of Thrones is one of the most pirated series out there, and the first episode of the latest season was no exception. According to TorrentFreak, just half a day after the episode appeared online over a million people grabbed a copy via a torrent site. At the peak of this download frenzy, over 300,000 people were sharing one of the three most popular torrents at once; over 140,000 of those were using the same torrent.
Last December TorrentFreak crowned Game of Thrones as the reigning champ of pirated TV shows for 2013, for the second year running, and it looks as if it will keep its crown this year. According to TorrentFreak's numbers, Australia is still home to the biggest bunch of pirates in the whole wide world, with 11.6% of the total coming from the land down under, 3.2% of that coming from Melbourne alone. Sydney, Brisbane and Perth are all among the top ten pirate cities. Those law-abiding folks of the U.S.A. are next up in the rankings, with 9.3% of the traffic, though none of its cities seem to have made the top ten rankings. However TorrentFreak admits it collected its data within the first 12 hours of the episode airing, which can result in a geographic bias.
Demand for the episode was so great that HBO Go crashed and burned for several hours after it aired, which made torrents all the more enticing. When this issue came up last December, HBO CEO Jeff Hawkes called the Game of Thrones piracy achievement "better than an Emmy." Maybe that's just him putting a brave face on; after all, nobody knows better than he that, whatever HBO says or does, Game of Thrones is still going to be the pirates' darling. After all, in 2013 each episode garnered 4.3 million downloads on average. Yet the situation doesn't seem to affect DVD sales, and there's a strong argument for saying that anyone who watches a popular show like this, however they watch it, becomes an ambassador for it and secures more viewers.
On a separate but not entirely unrelated note, the folks at Xbox LIVE entertainment Tweet that the latest Game of Thrones episode will be up for free on Xbox Video. Just goes to show: free suits some people just fine.
Speaking as a recent convert: you know what this show needs? More weddings. That'll drive viewer numbers through the roof ...