As a diehard Game of Thrones fan, I look forward to my Sunday nights so much, it’s like the rest of the week is just killing time. It’s sad, I know, but it’s ritual at this point, seven seasons in, and I cherish that hour or so, when all the week’s juicy plot lines advance in completely surprising and almost always satisfying fashion. So why would I want to spoil that by watching a leaked version prior to Sunday?
Apparently I’m not the only one who feels that way, either, because despite the fact that hackers posted GoT’s “Spoils of War” episode online prior to Sunday night’s debut, a record-breaking 10.2 million viewers still tuned into HBO to see what has to be one of the show’s best efforts yet. That breaks the previous ratings record, set by the show’s hotly anticipated season premiere, three episodes prior.
Ratings records aside, HBO still has a hacking problem. It’s not just a Game of Thrones problem. The Rock’s sports-agency-gone-wild show, Ballers, and the Duplass Brothers’ new semi-supernatural anthology series, Room 104, have also had episodes leaked. And as they await a multimillion-dollar ransom from HBO and C.E.O. Richard Plepler, the hackers – who call themselves “Mr. Smith” – have been releasing upcoming scripts, executive emails, and even actors’ contact info. And they’re threatening to do even more damage if HBO doesn’t pay.
On Tuesday, HBO maintained their initial stance toward the hackers, stating to Vanity Fair:
“HBO believed that further leaks might emerge from this cyber incident when we confirmed it last week. As we said, the forensic review is ongoing. While it has been reported that a number of emails have been made public, the review to date has not given us a reason to believe that our e-mail system as a whole has been compromised. We continue to work around the clock with outside cybersecurity firms and law enforcement to resolve the incident. Meanwhile, our dedicated employees continue to focus on delivering the high quality of entertainment and service for which we are known.”
That last bit is the part that statement that really hits home for me. For years now, the network has delivered the very best original television content around. And I for one don’t mind paying for it. They earned it. And they earn it every Game of Thrones episode, which continue to get better because HBO continues to invest in it heavily. What did these hackers do to deserve a cut of it? Nothing. So go stuff it, hackers, and keep waiting on your ransom, while I and 10.2 million of my like-minded friends keep filling HBO’s pockets.
UPDATE: The hacker has struck again, this time releasing a July 27 message from an HBO senior vp in response to the initial videod blackmail request. The exec offered the hackers a "bug bounty payment" of $250,000 (far less than was sought), and also asked for time to gather the necessary bitcoin. According to THR, "the HBO executive's missive to the hackers is carefully worded and avoids language that would be construed as paying off the hackers and instead is framed as an offer for a reward for discovering vulnerabilities in HBO's system." HBO refrained from comment.