HBO has made the decision not to send any advance copies of any episodes of Game of Thrones season six to the media for review. The move comes on the heels of a huge torrent leak last year of the first four episodes of season 5, which resulted in millions of illegal downloads.
The decision was confirmed by president of programming for HBO Michael Lombardo, who stated, "We're not sending out press copies this year, anywhere in the world. There will be no copies for review." The lockdown applies to both physical media as well as digital-screening capabilities.
Last year, the first four episodes of season 5 of Game of Thrones were leaked to a private BitTorrent tracker and then subsequently spread to numerous public file-sharing sites, including the Pirate Bay, Kickass Torrents, Torrentz and EZTV. The source of the leak was never discovered but was thought to be a reviewer who had received the advance screeners. Downloads of the leaked episodes broke records, with millions of viewers acquiring the episodes illegally.
Providing advance copies of upcoming TV series episodes is a common practice in Hollywood, so much so that it is nearly always done in some shape or form. After last year's Game of Thrones leak, HBO enacted a more stringent security policy via a secure online screening system, but it appears even that isn't enough to satisfy the network's concern of another leak.
The showrunners of the series, David Benioff and Dan Weiss, initiated the idea of a season 6 lockdown, and HBO acquiesced.
"It's painful for Dan and David [when leaks happen]," explained Lombardo. "When you have press copies, inevitably friends ask, 'Can I see your copy?' There are things that happen. We talked about the upsides and downsides. Some of the press are fans who might be disappointed, but they'll understand."
In addition to the piracy issue, HBO is also concerned that online spoilers will surface, giving away important plot points. That's of particular concern this season because the plot has now moved past the narrative previously revealed in the books upon which the series is based.
Game of Thrones is HBO's most-watched series as well as its most critically-acclaimed, having received 12 Emmy Awards last year, including the crown jewel, Best Drama Series. The new season officially premieres on April 24.