Game of Thrones was the most pirated TV show of 2015, TorrentFreak reports, with the fantasy drama's season 5 finale downloaded an estimated 14.4 million times via BitTorrent. The show beat out its closest rival — The Walking Dead, which was downloaded 6.9 million times — to earn the dubious accolade for the fourth year in a row.
TorrentFreak's data indicates that two times as many people downloaded the season 5 finale of Game of Thrones than were estimated to have watched it on TV at the time. HBO's show has always drawn particular interest from pirates, heightened further this year when four episodes leaked before the season 5 premiere, but other shows also found more of a viewership via torrents than they did on TV in 2015. The excellent Mr. Robot only received an estimated 1.75 million viewers, but its most pirated episode was downloaded 3.5 million times. Suits, too, found a slightly larger audience among pirates, pulling in an estimated 2.38 million TV viewers, compared to the 2.6 million torrents estimated for one episode.
Game of Thrones' series 5 finale was torrented 14.4 million times
But while TorrentFreak notes that Game of Thrones' finale got an estimated TV viewership of 8.11 million, that figure doesn't take into account other methods of watching the episode legally. HBO airs Game of Thrones on its HBO Go streaming service for subscribers, and this year launched HBO Now, a new service that allows those without cable subscriptions to sign up and stream its shows online. Entertainment Weekly says these methods combined to give Game of Thrones a more accurate per-episode viewership of 20 million.
While TorrentFreak says TV piracy is rising, most of the other shows on its top 10 list still notched more estimated TV viewers than pirates. The most torrented episode of The Big Bang Theory, for example, was downloaded 4.4 million times — a fraction of the show's 18.3 million-strong viewership. Similarly, The Walking Dead's most torrented episode took second place on 2015's top 10, but the 6.9 million total was less than half of the 15.78 million that watched the episode on TV.