The production costs for HBO’s massively popular fantasy series Game of Thrones are reportedly among the most expensive in television history. This information makes it seem likely that HBO needs to make sure everyone watching pays a fair share.
Instead, in a recent interview, the network’s programming president admitted that he viewed individual piracy—that is, when an individual consumer finds and downloads an episode or two from the Internet—as mostly a compliment. Michael Lombardo acknowledged that a popular show is more likely to prompt such moves by consumers, so in a way, piracy simply reinforced the reputation of the show for being great entertainment.
Part of his calm demeanor might result from the profits that Game of Thrones continues to earn, regardless of the level of piracy. In terms of DVD and international sales, the show is HBO’s top money maker. Furthermore, the trends of piracy rates and DVD sales suggest that even after they illegally download an episode, fans still go out to purchase the entire season on DVD when it becomes available.
Consumers who choose not to subscribe to cable services or to HBO note that illegal downloads are nearly the only way to access individual shows during the run of a current season, because HBO does not offer a pay-per-view option or any access to shows without a full subscription. For many younger consumers, the idea of being tied into a cable contract is so unappealing that it overwhelms their desire for easy access to all the episodes of Game of Thrones.
Lombardo was quick to reaffirm though that HBO’s official stance is firmly and consistently anti-piracy. But it appears when consumers act on their own to gain more access to content they want, the provider is less concerned than if it were to face systematic theft.
Sources: James Hibberd, “HBO: ‘Game of Thrones’ Piracy Is a Compliment,” Entertainment Weekly, March 31, 2013, http://insidetv.ew.com/2013/03/31/hbo-thrones-piracy/.