This latest honor comes via TorrentFreak, which found that the Season 3 finale of the show had 5.9 million downloads via BitTorrent, beating other shows like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead by large margins. However, the fact that millions of people are pirating Game of Thrones really isn’t the story here — or, if it is, it’s not a new one. What bears examining is the extent to which that piracy is a direct product of HBO’s policies — and the network’s staunch refusal to budge in the face of mounting evidence that their policy of avoiding third-party distribution to reinforce the value of their product is accomplishing just the opposite.
It’s not that HBO doesn’t acknowledge the volume of torrenting taking place. In fact, in August Jeff Bewkes, CEO of HBO parent Time Warner, called out piracy as “better than an Emmy” for stimulating interest in Game of Thrones and increasing the number of legitimate HBO subscriptions. Yet statements like that demonstrate that they don’t really seem to get how — or why — piracy is happening, or their role in that.