Game of Thrones fans unwilling to bend the knee to HBO's demands for paying subscribers took to the internet faster than a dagger-wielding Arya Stark to illegally download the seventh season this year, according to an anti-piracy firm.
Variety reports that the penultimate season of the medieval fantasy epic has been illegally downloaded or streamed more than 1 billion times. (That's roughly the same number of White Walkers seen on the show, give or take a dragon.)
The figure is attributed to a report from anti-piracy firm MUSO, which tracked illegal downloads for all seven episodes this season. The most-viewed episodes within the first 72 hours of the initial broadcast were, not surprisingly, the first and last. The season premiere was illegally downloaded or streamed more than 90 million times in those first three days, the report claims. Meanwhile, the season finale was illegally downloaded or streamed more than 120 million times just after its own debut.
This season, the HBO hit was also plagued by security breaches and episode leaks, which only served to compound the problem of illegal viewing, especially with so many viewers desperately shipping Dany and Jon despite their shared ancestry.
“Game of Thrones has become one of the biggest global entertainment phenomena of today and activity across piracy networks has been totally unprecedented,” said Andy Chatterley, co-founder and CEO of MUSO. And, Chatterly noted, it's significant that beyond the sheer number of illegal downloads, most viewers are taking part in unlicensed streaming rather than straight torrent downloads.
But with the eighth and final season delayed until 2019, HBO has some time to lock down security measures tighter than guard duty at the Shadow Tower. And we suspect more fans will have to forge alliances with friends who have legitimate HBO accounts if they want to see how the battle turns out.