Game of Thrones is finally back and people all over the world have been tuning in to see how the beloved HBO fantasy series is going to wrap up. It's just that a lot of people are doing so through piracy, as opposed to actually paying to see the show through proper channels. The series has been pirated a lot in the past, but the numbers for the season 8 premiere are downright astonishing, as the new episode was pirated by more than three times as many people who tuned in to watch it legally.

According to data collected by digital analytics company Muso, the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere episode, Winterfell, was pirated an astonishing 54 million times in the first 24 hours after its debut. The episode drew in a record 17.4 million viewers, but that number is absolutely dwarfed by those who decided to stream or download the episode illegally online. Muso CEO Andy Chatterley had this to say about it.

"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. 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."

At this point in time, consumers are faced with a dilemma. There is more premium content out there, such as Game of Thrones, for everyone to enjoy than anyone ever thought possible. But all of it is spread across various platforms, such as HBO, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, FX and a host of other channels/services. Most people simply can't/won't pay for all of these options. And, in many cases, that opens up the door for piracy.

The good news for HBO is that demand for Game of Thrones has never been higher. This final season has been in the works for nearly two years and it will consist of just six episodes. Even though it's shorter than usual, in terms of episode count, fans are feeling feverish after having waited so long for the show's return. Even taking the piracy numbers into account, there are few, if any other shows, on the planet that can claim to have an audience of this size.

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Indeed, HBO would absolutely prefer these people either pay for a subscription or pay to watch each episode individually through a paid service that allows them to do so. Still, those who pirate are big fans and will still likely shell out for Game of Thrones merchandise, or they can contribute through other ancillary revenue streams. At the end of the day, piracy is still a huge problem that networks and streaming services have yet to get a hold of. This news comes from Business Insider.

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Ryan Scott