Game of Thrones is not only the most pirated TV show ever produced, but major episodes gained over ten times more illegal viewers than legal.

With pirating movie and TV content continuing to rise at exponential rates around the world, it will be a very long time before another show de-thrones Game of Thrones for the title of most illegally streamed series in history.

The Night King raises the dead after a battle
Game of Thrones/HBO Entertainment/GameofThrones Official YouTube channel

Game of Thrones record-setting piracy rates remains unrivaled

Pirated video materials gained over 230 billion views worldwide in 2022, with billions of dollars worth of content consumed illegally by countless users around the globe; and over the past decade, no single series was pirated more than Game of Thrones.

The Washington Post once detailed a breakdown by data magazine MUSO just after the Game of Thrones season 7 finale concluded in August 2017, with the report citing that the seventh season was pirated more than 1.03 billion times!

The problem was obvious from the very first season 7 episode: 16.1 million people watched via HBO, but the number of illegal downloads and streams topped 187.4 million – more than ten times the legal viewership.

Unsurprisingly, the jaw-dropping rate at which Game of Thrones was illegally pirated continued into its eighth and final season. Ultimately, the adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s original books is now considered to be the most pirated TV show in media history.

MUSO Ceo Andy Chatterley explained at the time how “audience figures have always been a critical measure for studios and TV execs to assess the health of shows,” and that increased piracy rates change the entire multi-media landscape for those funding such enormous productions.

“The fact that almost 100 million people are watching Game of Thrones outside of the official channels, not only shows just how popular this show is but the massive opportunity to engage people and bring them back around to legitimate mediums.”

“Of course, Game of Thrones’ growing popularity over the seasons has been no secret, but the numbers here show the total audience across both legal and unlicensed channels, the complete picture which is often missing from audience figures and is likely to be far bigger than anyone anticipated,” he added.

Ironically, Time Warner (owning company of HBO) CEO Alan Bewkes stated in 2013 how becoming the most illegally streamed show in history was “better than an Emmy” and that torrenting ultimately led to more paid subscriptions.

“We’ve been dealing with this for 20, 30 years—people sharing subs, running wires down the backs of apartment buildings. Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world and that’s better than an Emmy.”

Whilst Game of Thrones and illegal streaming have come a long way since 2013, it will surely be a very long time before another title dethrones the HBO blockbuster as the most pirated series of all time.

The dangers of pirating content in 2023

Pirating your favorite movies and TV shows has never been easier and more accessible than it is in 2023; however, pirating content also comes with a significant risk to the user.

Broadband data analyst Nick Baker explained to Uswitch how “With the increasing cost of living, some people may turn to illegal downloading as a means to access their favorite TV shows, films, games and software online.”

“Using illegal piracy websites can put users at extreme risk of hacking and phishing scams which makes your personal data vulnerable. In addition to that, industries that are affected by illegal downloading closely monitor the internet and can take legal action against you if caught.”

In truth, the risk that users take varies widely depending on which pirating platform they commonly use; some platforms are essentially harmless for most users, whilst others are definite no-goes for those new to illegally streaming or torrenting.

“While the temptation to pirate your favorite content is appealing, it’s worth asking yourself if it’s really worth putting yourself at risk of scams and legal action,” says Baker.

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