Game of Thrones, the titanically popular HBO series based on George R. R. Martin's celebrated fantasy novels, is so well-loved by the cable-less community that approximately 1 million cord-cutters, using the speedy BitTorrent protocol, elected to illicitly download the television's show's season three premiere within hours of airing on Sunday night. According to the BitTorrent-focused site TorrentFreak, the season premiere smashed records for the number of users simultaneously downloading (and, by the nature of the torrent protocol, distributing) the current season's first episode. And that's just BitTorrent, which is by far the most popular way to pirate media, though surely the number is higher.
"A few hours after the first torrent of the show was uploaded the OpenBitTorrent tracker reported that 163,088 people where sharing one single torrent. 110,303 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 52,786 were still downloading," the folks at TorrentFreak wrote, after which the numbers continued to grow, adding to the "swarm" of users participating in a certain file's distributing. "These are mind boggling numbers that we've never seen before."
By contrast, 4.4 million people watched the season premiere using a paid subscription to HBO, up half a million from the second season's premiere in spring 2012. So perhaps it's time for HBO to re-evaluate their present hesitance to open up their streaming service, HBO Go, to people who don't want to pay for an entire cable package — or pilfer their friends' or parents' login credentials — in order to watch Game of Thrones. (Or Girls. Or, soon enough, Veep.)