Game of Thrones season 7 was massively successful, but not every viewer was a paying HBO customer. A new report suggests the penultimate season of the fantasy behemoth was pirated over one billion times.
Long a simmering stew of complex characters and unexpected plot twists, Game of Thrones boiled over into the realm of Hollywood action movie in its seventh season, as characters who had been separated over the show's life finally came together in the face of the Night King and his horde of ice zombies making their way toward Westeros, setting up the final season's massive showdown.
And while the show has never been more popular, that's also true among fans who illegally download the show. According to a report from TorrentFreak (via Screen Crush), the data piracy firm MUSO estimates each of the season's seven episodes were pirated about 140 million times each. The vast majority of those views were coming from unauthorized streaming services and private torrents, rather than direct downloads and public torrents. HBO likely did themselves no favors in this department, as both 'The Spoils of War' and 'Beyond The Wall' were accidentally leaked early by the network. Those leaks, ironically, were not linked to hackers who compromised HBO's security and threatened to release episodes early.
While a network is never going to be thrilled with piracy, it's unlikely HBO is worried about these stats in any real way. The show improbably saw its best ever ratings in season 7, and the series dominated the cultural conversation. And while the show endured some criticisms about its perceived storytelling deficiencies, there is no more anticipated season of television than Game of Thrones' final outing.
Fans will likely have to wait awhile for that last season, as the show's producers have indicated the final, six-episode run will likely not debut until 2019. It's not all bad news though, as those final six episodes will be super-sized, each reportedly running around 80 minutes, and early plans for various spinoff series are still underway at the network.
HBO would never publicly acknowledge it, and obviously they'd be thrilled to find a permanent solution to piracy, but it seems likely that, on some level, they're impressed by the show's piracy numbers. Those numbers are something of a dark ratings system, and it's yet another measurement by which Game of Thrones is the most popular show on television.
Game of Thrones season 8 will air in 2018 or 2019 on HBO.