Once again, ‘Game of Thrones’ triggers online piracy frenzy


Having been crowned the "most pirated TV show" for a few years now, it should come as no surprise that HBO's "Game of Thrones" sparked another surge in online piracy, after the debut of the first episode of the new season.

Season six's premiere episode "The Red Woman", saw over a million downloads in the first 12 hours after its broadcast, according to data collected by TorrentFreak, a piracy tracking news site.

Credit: Macall B. Polay | Courtesy of HBO

To analyze how popular the episode was globally when it came to downloads, TorrentFreak took a sample of 10,000-plus IP-addresses—from the most popular torrent file—during the first 12 hours, with the sample showing Australia was responsible for an eighth (12.5 percent) of downloads for the episode.

TorrentFreak's founder told CNBC via email, that data could be "slightly skewed" due to time differences across the globe as well regional preferences.

It wasn't just Australia who wanted to know what the show's writers had kept under wraps either.

From the data collected in the first 12 hours, India came up as the second country in top downloads, with 9.7 percent, followed by the U.S. and the U.K., with 8.5 and 6.9 percent respectively.

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"The data shows that 'Game of Thrones' piracy is still rampant. Australia is generally one of the countries with the highest piracy rate per capita, which the current number confirms," Ernesto Van der Sar, TorrentFreak's founder and editor-in-chief, told CNBC via email.

While the overall figures are impressive, it failed to top season five's finale "Mother's Mercy", which garnered some 1.5 million downloads in the first eight hours following its broadcast.

Season six's debut was also popular legally too. On Tuesday, Australian pay-TV network Foxtel, said "The Red Woman" episode was the "most-watched show in Foxtel history", with a total audience of 727,000; beating the previous record of some 719,000, which was for the 2011 Rugby World Cup semi-final between Australia and New Zealand.

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After reporting the data, Van der Sar said he expected piracy rates to "remain high" throughout this season, but it's likely that the final episode will be the most popular among online users.

"Traditionally the season finale generates most interest, with over 5 million downloads in a week. Since the first season, 'Game of Thrones' piracy has gradually increased, and it's not unlikely to see this trend continuing," said Ernesto Van der Sar.

"However, HBO and its broadcasting partners have put a lot of effort in making the show widely available in a timely fashion, so eventually it might level off."

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Game of Thrones: Top countries in downloads

1. Australia (12.5%)
2. India (9.7%)
3. United States (8.5%)
4. United Kingdom (6.9%)
5. Philippines (5.8%)
6. Canada (3.9%)
7. Netherlands (3.0%)
8. Greece (2.7%)
9. South Africa (2.2%)
10. Saudi Arabia (2.0%)

Courtesy of TorrentFreak. For more on their analysis, click here.