HBO’s Game of Thrones broadcast strategy aimed at thwarting piracy

Ian Paul
8 March, 2013
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With the third season of the hit series Game of Thrones set to debut at the end of March in the US, HBO hopes winter is coming not just to the land of Westeros, but also to digital piracy. In an apparent effort to reduce illicit downloads overseas, HBO plans to release new episodes of Game of Thrones Season 3 (or GOT S03 in pirate-speak) to worldwide audiences faster than usual.

As initially reported by Forbes, the new season of Game of Thrones will begin to air in 176 markets around the globe within a week of the U.S. premiere. A source within HBO who asked not to be identified confirmed the scheduling to TechHive.

International audiences often have to wait weeks or months for their favourite HBO shows to be broadcast by their local cable providers. That’s why HBO’s accelerated release rate isn’t just for Game of Thrones, our source said, but for all of HBO’s original programming.

HBO’s accelerated international schedule comes after the second season of Game of Thrones earned the dubious honor of being the most pirated TV show in 2012. The medieval drama set in an imaginary world saw more than three million pirated downloads per episode in 2012, according to TorrentFreak. The premiere season was also one of the most pirated shows for 2011, TorrentFreak said, coming in second to the sixth season of Showtime’s Dexter.

International audiences are a good place to start if HBO wants Game of Thrones to stay off the piracy charts in 2013. TorrentFreak reported in December that 80 percent of TV show pirates are outside of the United States, and our source confirmed that piracy for Game of Thrones is a bigger problem overseas than within the US But piracy isn’t the only issue prompting the new release window, this person said; technology is also making it easier to transmit content around the world faster than in the days when everything shipped on physical media.

Show scheduling

Season three of Game of Thrones debuts at the end of March in the U.S.; it will air in other countries a week later, HBO says.

It’s not clear how the Game of Thrones accelerated schedule would work, and our source was unable to confirm this by the time we published this article. But speaking from personal experience, HBO’s plan may reflect something similar to what happened overseas with AMC’s Mad Men in 2012. The critically acclaimed 1950-60s era drama aired in some overseas markets (including mine) soon after its initial air date in the US Mad Men aired in the UK three days after its US premiere, according to Den of Geek.

Airing most of Game of Thrones within 24 hours would make far more sense for international audiences rather than waiting a week for each successive episode. Why wait seven days after all, when you can just download it in a few minutes and watch it right away for free? But when the download window closes to just one day or a few days, the lure of piracy may not be as attractive.

Pirates hoping to watch Game of Thrones still have to wait for a new episode to pop-up on The Pirate Bay or another BitTorrent tracking site. Since Game of Thrones airs on Sunday night in the US, international downloaders could be waiting until Monday morning or afternoon to get the show, depending on their time zone.

Since you’ve downloaded the new episode on a work day, you may not have time to watch it before your local cable provider airs it that night. Under those circumstances, waiting for the broadcast or recording it on your DVR makes more sense. But that’s purely speculation – it’s not clear if this is the schedule HBO’s international partners will follow with Game of Thrones and other HBO shows.

By Ian Paul, TechHive.

Ian is an independent writer based in Tel Aviv, Israel. His current focus is on all things tech including mobile devices, desktop and laptop computers, software, social networks, Web apps, tech-related legislation and corporate tech news. Follow Ian on Twitter: @ianpaul


One Comment

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  1. Ben says:

    What are their measures of success for this new strategy?

    ” the new season of Game of Thrones will begin to air in 176 markets around the globe within a week of the U.S. premiere. ”

    How many downloads within a week are acceptable?

    When will they make eps and the series available for legit download?

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