Game of Thrones was not only the most pirated television series of the Spring, but this year’s season finale was the most pirated episode of television of all time. Over one million people illegally downloaded the season finale in under a day. So you figure that that must have put a dent in the ratings, right? No, actually. This season of Game of Thrones was the second highest rated season on HBO of all time, behind only The Sopranos 2004 season (before piracy was as rampant).
Oh, but with all these people downloaded episodes, then surely DVD sales are in the toilet, right?
In fact, according to Amazon, the most pirated television series of the year was also the most purchased series of the year. That makes a fairly compelling case for the notion that pirating may actually increase DVD sales if, for instance, people wanted hard copies of their illegally downloaded files. Or maybe there’s just SO many Game of Thrones fans that 13 million people watch it each week, another few million download it each week, and there’s still several million buying the DVDs.
Either way, Game of Thrones is not hurting. In fact, three of 2012’s most illegally pirated series, Game of Thrones, Dexter and Breaking Bad were among the 5 best selling TV shows on Amazon this year (the other two were The Bible and True Blood).
Basically, all the evidence demonstrates that — while the model may not be perfect — a great show (or True Blood) will be watched somehow, be it on cable, on DVD, or through illegal means. Is it possible that, without illegal pirating, these shows would’ve seen even higher sales? Maybe. Probably. But it certainly hasn’t hurt the overall success of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.