HBO's Game of Thrones was the most pirated TV show of 2012, and early download stats following last night's season three opener have it on track to receive that "honor" yet again this year. According to TorrentFreak, there's been a flurry of illegal downloading activity in the hours since the hit series returned last night. At one point, a single torrent reportedly had over 160,000 simultaneous connections. But adding all the various releases together reveals that the episode has already been downloaded over one million times.
That's even after HBO offered up new ways of catching the premiere; the network allowed customers to stream Game of Thrones via HBO Go at the same time that cable subscribers watched it live. Based on the staggering torrent numbers, HBO has further to go if it wants to quell piracy. Author George R.R. Martin has previously spun the rampant piracy as "a compliment," and network executives are quick to point toward strong DVD and Blu-ray sales as proof that Thrones fans are willing to support the show through legitimate means. The problem is particularly evident in Australia where, as Mr. Martin once pointed out, "for whatever reason they delay the show six months." The situation is no longer quite that drastic, as episodes now typically air on the same evening as other international markets.
Despite the alarming piracy, plenty of fans tuned in through legal means; all told, the premiere pulled in 6.7 million US viewers last night with repeats included. Even pitted up against The Walking Dead's season finale, it quickly became the most-watched episode of the series yet.