Cable Technology Feature Article
TV's Most Wanted: Digital Pirating in 2012
By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer
With the end of the year now upon us, it's worth taking a look back at the biggest events of the year before the ball drops and sends us on to a brand new year. To that end, TorrentFreak has discovered what show was the most pirated in 2012 – “Game of Thrones.”
One particular episode was downloaded 4.28 million times in 2012, and given that HBO's numbers say the second season of “Game of Thrones” garnered an average of 10.4 million viewers per episode, that's no small amount.
The second season finale in June, for example, pulled 4.2 million viewers at nine p.m., followed by an additional 910,000 showing up for the subsequent replay.
The remaining top 10 pirated shows read like a who's-who of television, with Showtime's “Dexter” accounting for 3.85 million downloads on one show, and the “Homeland” series seeing 2.4 million.
The networks were well represented, as CBS hit “The Big Bang (News - Alert) Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother” pulling 3.2 million and 2.96 million respectively. Fox mainstays, “House” and “Fringe,” garnered 2.34 million and 2.28 million, and NBC's “Revolution (News - Alert)” accounted for 2.13 million.
AMC hits were also high on pirate's to-download lists, with “Breaking Bad” garnering 2.58 million and “The Walking Dead” netting 2.55 million.
The issue of “Game of Thrones” has actually been covered on several fronts, many from users who wanted to see the show, but didn't have the pay-TV service. Some users checked multiple locations, only to discover that HBO had severely limited the supply. Netflix didn't have it, Hulu (News - Alert) Plus, Amazon, iTunes...it seemed like the only place to find it was HBO.
HBO did make some concession, offering the show through HBO Go, its online streaming service. But since HBO Go requires authentication with a cable service to access, the value of such a service wasn't as wide as it might have been. This left many users with a clear choice: wait an indeterminate length of time for HBO to make the release elsewhere, or turn to piracy.
As the numbers quite clearly showed, a lot of users turned to piracy.
Moreover, those numbers aren't even largely American. TorrentFreak's numbers suggest over 80 percent of illicit downloads come from outside the United States. This leads to the idea that, for many, piracy isn't a way to make money – or even save money – but rather a way to get access to shows that are unavailable by any legitimate method.
While it's important to note that the rights holders of material do have the right to distribute their product as they see fit, it's hard to make the case for pirates as remorseless criminals when the motivation for digital theft was, “They wouldn't sell it to me anywhere.”
Entertainment is increasingly an on-demand proposition. Embargoes and blocks and general slowness in releasing is tolerated less and less, and those who don't provide will often find themselves – much as HBO did here – on the bad end of the piracy equation.
The better a job content providers can do of making content available at good prices and at a wider variety of sources, the less likely they are to be pirated. Hopefully that's a lesson they can take with them into 2013.
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Edited by Braden Becker