Before the Game of Thrones TV series celebrated its fifth name day, the season's first four of 10 episodes leaked all across the Internet.
HBO is likely infuriated, considering its attitude toward piracy and the work it has done to launch its new HBO Now service.
The broadcaster's live TV anywhere service, HBO Now, is available through deals with Apple for Apple TV and Dish Network for Sling TV. HBO attempted to use the premiere of Game of Thrones season 5 to bolster the launch of the $15 HBO Now service, which, unlike the HBO GO app, is a standalone service and requires no cable subscription.
A report from TorrentFreak indicated that each of the four leaked episodes, spilled from the hands of a review screener, hit the Internet on April 12 at different times instead of arriving as a single file. Had they been grouped together into one package, the file might have had a shot at surpassing last season's single file-sharing record - with 254,114 holders of the same file. That file was the season finale.
The season premiere's delivery was actually meant to discourage piracy, as the first episode of the season aired at the same time across more than 170 different countries. Yet, those acting under black sails have disrupted that plan, releasing the season premiere early and tossing in the next three episodes to cover the rest of April.
For three years now, Game of Thrones has been the world's most pirated TV show. Telecoms and broadcasters have taken a stance on piracy similar to watch makers on knockoff: the black market spreads awareness about a product and eventually leads to more paying consumers.
Piracy results in more subscribers, deeper market penetration and more "health for HBO," Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said last year. It also means telecoms and broadcasters have to rely less on paid advertising, he said.
"If you go around the world, I think you're right, 'Game of Thrones' is the most pirated show in the world. Well, you know, that's better than an Emmy," Bewkes said.
The five countries that downloaded the leaked episodes the most time include the United Kingdom, United States, India, Canada and France, according to TorrentFreak. The top five cities include London, Athens, Lisbon, Stockholm and Bucharest.