HBO's Game of Thrones the most pirated TV show
Game of Thrones is the most-pirated TV show in the world, according to a four-week snapshot of online piracy.
The hit HBO show, returning for its fourth season, tops a list that features some of the most sought-after shows on television, including The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and Mad Men.
The snapshot of global illegal downloading, carried out by anti-piracy and security firm Irdeto , found that Game of Thrones episodes were downloaded almost 1.6 million times.
The fantasy show accounted for a quarter of the 7.5 million illegal downloads of the 28 shows Irdeto tracked between January 13 and February 9.
"Programmes start to be pirated literally minutes after the first airing of a show," says Eric Antze, product manager at Irdeto. "Within an hour we see pretty significant propagation of that content across the internet, and piracy is on the increase."
Jeff Bewkes, the chief executive of HBO's parent company, Time Warner, has said Game of Thrones piracy has been "better than an Emmy" as a publicity machine, which helped drive the TV subscriptions.
"It is not as big of an issue as music in part because there is a plentiful supply of legal and free content out there," says John Enser, a partner at the media law firm Olswang.
"From the iPlayer, to 4oD [video on demand services] and Sky's on-the-go services there are plenty of options, a lot of TV is free, and the UK is ahead of many countries including the US in offering 'TV Everywhere'."
Giles Willits, the financial chief of Entertainment One, which distributes shows including Walking Dead and new teen film Divergent, says that the digital age may have enabled piracy but it has also provided rightsholders with huge opportunities.