By Travis Clark|Business Insider|
Sunday’s season eight premiere of “Game of Thrones” was the show’s most-watched episode ever, but it could have been even bigger if more people watched it legally.
The episode, “Winterfell,” kicked off the final season of HBO’s epic fantasy drama, and it was pirated 54 million times globally in 24 hours, according to Muso, a digital-piracy analytics company.
Muso said that the first seven seasons have all been among the 25 most-pirated TV show seasons this month, likely because viewers are re-watching or catching up with the show before the finale.
“Regardless of rationale, the piracy figures for just the first 24 hours since the episode aired demonstrate that these audiences cannot – and should not – be ignored,” Muso CEO Andy Chatterley said in a statement.
“Despite considerable global efforts to tackle piracy over the past couple of years, this data shows that consumers are still being driven to unlicensed sources to find content. It’s imperative that rights holders understand that piracy audiences are some of their most dedicated fans, which, above all else, presents a vast commercial opportunity.”
Despite the piracy, the episode was watched by a record 17.4 million viewers across all of HBO’s platforms (linear, HBO Now, and HBO Go), the premium cable network said on Monday. It broke the show’s previous viewership record of 16.9 million for the season seven finale in 2017.
It was also the biggest streaming night for HBO of all time. Viewership on its standalone streaming platform, HBO Now, grew by 50% from the season seven finale, and by 97% from the season seven premiere.
But 11.8 million viewers watched during the 9PM premiere on HBO, down from the season seven finale’s 12.1 million viewers. HBO blamed this on Dish dropping the network in November, after the two sides failed to land on a deal. This could have led to some piracy in the US, which ranked third among the countries where the episode was most pirated.
The episode was pirated the most in India at 9.5 million times, followed by China at 5.2 million times. Chinese censors cut six minutes from the premiere when it was aired by Tencent, which could have prompted fans to seek alternatives.