Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes had his annual earnings call this morning, in which he discussed all sorts of money-related things that are very boring and are only important to people who have stupid things like “stocks” and “investment portfolios” and “retirement strategies.” But he also discussed Game of Thrones and piracy, and in doing so, he said this, which I kind of love.
The much-discussed fantasy series is HBO’s most popular, and “if you go to people who are watching it without subs, it’s a tremendous word-of-mouth thing,” the exec told investors. “We’ve been dealing with this for 20, 30 years—people sharing subs, running wires down the backs of apartment buildings. Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world,” he said. “That’s better than an Emmy.” [AdWeek]
The point he’s making here is a good one. The type of people who pirate shows like Game of Thrones are also, generally speaking, the type of web-savvy individuals who rave about it on Twitter and message boards, and make mashups and all kinds of other fan-created content related to the show, which serves as free publicity for HBO when it all gets posted and discussed on sites devoted to television and/or web culture (UPROXX, The Culture of What’s Buzzing). As a result of all that, more people who want to see what everyone’s talking about, but have money to burn or are just less-inclined to pirate shows online, will sign up for a subscription. So, basically, having the most pirated show means generating the most of this kind of buzz, which probably does do more to increase subscriptions than winning a single Emmy.
But there’s something about his phrasing. “Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world. That’s better than an Emmy.” If you take away the context, it makes him sound less like the CEO of a huge media company and more like a stoned 20-year-old college student who came home for Christmas with dreadlocks and a severe distrust of corporations, and is explaining the unfiltered populism that can be found online during a 20-minute rant to his parents about the benefits of anarchy. I like that.