Game of Thrones was the most illegally downloaded TV series in 2012, but HBO programming president Michael Lombardo admitted to Entertainment Weekly piracy hasn’t hurt DVD sales. In fact, he called the popularity of the show among file sharers, “a compliment of sorts.”
“The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales,” Lombardo said. “[Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”
Viewers of HBO’s original programing via Torrent technology in larger numbers claim to practice “ethical bittorenting.” They realize downloading an HBO show is illegal, but they commit to buying DVDs or digital copies of the show when they’re released. That way they get to be a part of the conversation about the show they love, but they ultimately pay for it.
This seems to be what’s happening with Game of Thrones. It is not only the most pirated HBO show. One estimate is the season finale of season two was downloaded 4.3 million times. It is also the top selling HBO show on DVD. Season two of Thrones sold 241,000 units plus 355,000 digital downloads on the day it was released.
Thrones earns more money for HBO than any other show.
HBO isn’t suddenly embracing piracy as a positive thing, despite evidence that it is a positive thing. As a subscription service, Lombardo says HBO seeks to stop piracy when they see it happening, but they’re not going after individual downloaders. The big concern is when people try to sell pirated HBO programing.
Lombardo also says he’s concerned about the quality degradation in pirated copies of Thrones. The production team makes a great product, and Lombardo worries illegal copies may not hold up well.
HBO is trying to figure out a way to make it’s HBO GO service available as a stand alone product without upsetting business partners in the cable and satellite business.