After our reading in English 340 about how, in a sense, most mediums for sharing media have been founded on piracy, I checked out what the biggest form of piracy is today.
Today, piracy via the internet is commonly used to attain copies of TV shows like HBO’s Game of Thrones, the most-pirated show last year. Besides being a well-received show, the reason for this is likely its availability (or lack of availability, rather). Many TV show episodes are available to watch the day after they are first broadcast with:
- On Demand cable services (accessed with a paid subscription)
- through online services like iTunes or Amazon Prime (pay per episode or per season)
- On the broadcasters’ websites (paid for by advertisers or TV licence payers).
If you want to watch an HBO show, however, you can pay for an upgraded cable subscription or the streaming service HBO GO. If you want to just watch Game of Thrones and not pay for a huge package of other shows along with it, you can wait for the DVD release… or illegally download the show, as was done over 8 million times last year. In 2013, on average, the number of illegal download views for Game of Thrones exceeded the number of its legal TV views. HBO is clearly being robbed of their potential earnings, right?
“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” HBO programming president Michael Lombardo tells Entertainment Weekly. He goes on to say that Game of Thrones is HBO’s top-earning show and its most-pirated show. David Petrarca, a director who works on the series, echoed Lombardo’s comments, explaining that good TV shows become popular by being discussed and shared with friends. I think the news stories about the Game of Thrones being pirated only increase the public’s awareness of the series, and being a popular show through any measure is positive press.
Piracy seems to have helped the show’s success and HBO has not announced an option for viewers to pay for the show by itself before DVD release, but HBO is working on making the show more easily available to viewers worldwide.
This may not lessen piracy all that much, though. Not too far behind Game of Thrones in the list of most pirated episodes from last year is The Big Bang Theory, which airs on CBS, free to Americans. I think the reason piracy is a popular alternative to live television is because people just don’t like to pay for things. While illegal, piracy acts as an illegal free sample for consumers of art and literature, which may encourage them to buy DVDs or online subscriptions for what they’ve sampled.
More on that in my next blog post…