Spoilers are coming: the real significance of the Game of Thrones leaks
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Unless you’ve been offline for the past month, chances are you’re aware of the Game of Thrones leaks. The fantasy drama is one of the most popular shows ever made, and with every new season there comes a spike in online piracy. HBO’s flagship programme is the world’s most pirated TV show, and the seventh season has been plagued by hackers and accidental leaks from the company’s international offices.
Despite the leaks, Game of Thrones has unprecedentedly high ratings. The Spoils of War, the fourth episode of the seventh season, was leaked two days prior to its planned airdate. Nevertheless, the much-acclaimed episode secured 10.17 million viewers in the US, a record which the following episode Eastwatch broke the very next week. The latest instalment, Beyond The Wall, was also leaked by hackers, but still obtained viewing figures of 10.24 million people in America. HBO isn’t the only company to have had its programming leaked. Earlier in 2017, hacking collective the Dark Overlord leaked ten episodes of Orange is the New Black when distributor Netflix refused to pay the group ransom money. Likewise, the leaks had little effect on ratings for the show; although Netflix is notoriously private about viewing figures, data company Nielsen estimated that 6.7 million people binge-watched Orange is the New Black in the first three days of its release. HBO is unlikely to ever eradicate piracy, or the appetite for it. Game of Thrones is available in more countries than ever before, but there are still areas where HBO and its programming remain unavailable through legal means. Nevertheless, piracy seems to be having little impact on HBO’s profits or ratings, with plenty of viewers valuing convenience and clarity over cost. The leaks may not be adversely affecting the company, but the show’s highly pirated nature indicates something more significant about the writing of Game of Thrones.
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