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HBO: We Know You’re Pirating ‘Game Of Thrones’ And That’s Fine

9 August 2013

Since ebook piracy is a continuing topic of discussion.

From Business Insider:

Yesterday Time Warner Inc. — the owner of HBO — released its quarterly earnings.

During the earnings call, Tuna Amobi of S&P U.S. Equity Research Services asked CEO Jeff Bewkes what he thought of “Game of Thrones” being the most pirated show on television.

. . . .

Essentially, Bewkes goes so far as to say that internet piracy is downright awesome for HBO.

HBO grows by gaining subscribers, and it gains subscribers mostly by word of mouth. In the old days, that word of mouth included neighbors inviting neighbors over to enjoy their HBO subscription, or even cases of people stealing cable just to score HBO.

. . . .

Tuna Amobi: Game of Thrones has obviously had a phenomenal performance, but one other issue that has come up with regards to that title is the online piracy. I think by all accounts one of the highest pirated shows and I’m not aware what you guys have done to kind of address that. It seems that you have viewed it as kind of a compliment in terms of looking the other way so much. Is that the right way of thinking? Kind of a paradigm shift with the piracy and its impact on shows going forward that what you’ve done. 


Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes: To end on Game of Thrones on HBO, I have to confess I think you’re right. I have to admit, our first reaction to how much people want to watch it — now first of all it’s got ratings of 14, 15 million — a lot of it is VOD  on your TV system, an increasing amount of it is VOD on your [HBO]Go Service.

It’s just really strengthening not just the image, but the engagement of our subs [subscribers] with HBO programming, it’s also getting them familiar and more involved with using the video on demand capabilities of HBO and don’t forget, the television part. The part where you go to your house and you turn on that big screen TV watching it over the video plan, also the HBO Go service where Game of Thrones is the leading introduction manual for how to use HBO Go which more and more people are doing.

Then go to people watching it who aren’t subs, it’s a tremendous word of mouth thing, the issue would be if they were doing it and because they could get it not subscribing, we don’t see much of that.

Basically, we’ve been dealing with this issue for years with HBO, literally 20, 30 years, where people have always been running wires down on the back of apartment buildings and sharing with their neighbors.

Our experience is, it all leads to more penetration, more paying subs, more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising — we don’t do a whole lot of paid advertising on HBO, we let the programming and the views talk for us — it seems to be working.

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.

Link to the rest at Business Insider


14 Comments to “HBO: We Know You’re Pirating ‘Game Of Thrones’ And That’s Fine”

  1. Heads exploding in 3…2…1…

  2. J. A. Konrath – stand up and take a bow.


  3. TL;DR: It’s probably not worth your time or money to “Do something about those Filthy Pirates.” They may even be helping you more than they’re hurting you.

  4. One thing that the article doesn’t bring up is that to get access to HBO or HBO Go legitimately, one has to subscribe to a cable package and then subscribe to HBO as a premium channel. Most fans of Game of Thrones that I know won’t spend that amount of money just to see GoT, or True Blood, or whatever. Those same fans who pirate would stop in a heartbeat if HBO Go was made available like Netflix or Hulu, as a single streaming service with a reasonable monthly charge.

    Alas, HBO’s agreements with cable companies prevent it from doing so, and I think that ends up hurting the channel’s bottom line.

    • Yes–I’m not a pirate, but this is a problem with an obvious solution: let the people without cable see your stuff. I don’t have a TV (not because I’m better than you!) so if I can’t stream it on my computer I will either wait for the DVD, or forget about it altogether.

      For my parents, I advised them to drop satellite and use Roku to sign up for Hulu/Netflix, and I let them use my Prime subscription. They love this, it saves them money, and unlike when they had satellite/cable they can now watch the over-the-air broadcasts of the Canadian channels (we live close enough to get Canadian TV/radio). If people like me or my parents become more common, HBO will have to either get more creative/competitive or keep pointlessly losing money.

    • Yes this. If one wants to buy the DVD they need to wait almost a year for it. Why? Just give me a basic one once the show is over and I’ll pay for it. Most people won’t wait so they’ll just pirate it. But I’ve heard this, people saying, well I don’t have a TV how do I get this? There’s no way. So they pirate. Not saying pirating is always bad, but they’re being idiots if they don’t see the reason here isn’t just popularity but their own policies.

  5. Bah, I had this whole rant about why I ignore piracy but I’ll just say ‘piracy is not a concern of mine, I’ll spend the time writing instead of worrying about who might be stealing my bits’.

    Because if a lot of people were stealing my bits, I’d be making the kind of sales that Konrath is making.

  6. I love the reference to people running wires from their neighbors to watch HBO years ago. My opinion all along is that file sharing is the exact behavior that’s been going on forever and it’s always been more beneficial than detrimental to overall exposure and earnings. I will argue to my death that the music industry suffered as it did specifically because they fought file sharing so fiercely. In killing Napster, they shot themselves in the head in the process. Publishers are doing themselves no favors with DRM designed to stop casual sharing. The only thing saving them is the fact that the DRM they use is laughably easy to circumvent. I got into a chicken-or-egg argument a few years ago over movies the year Avatar went crazy. Something like 9 of the top 10 highest grossing movies were also in the top 10 most pirated movies. I was told they were most pirated because they were the highest grossing. My point was, and still is, that they were the highest grossing because they were nost pirated, including Avatar, which was the most pirated, and was pushed to highest grossing film ever to that point. Bean counters simply have little to no conception of counter-intuitive benefits.

  7. Discoverability is a common topic here. I believe it’s part of Dan Meadows’s counter-intuitive benefits of piracy. One of my series books was pirated on a French site that has since been shut down. Yet, I saw a steady increase in sales on the other books in the series in Europe while it was up. Correlation? I can’t be sure, but I admit I did get a secret thrill that someone cared enough to pirate it.

    Maybe that’s the real point. If our work sucks, no one’s going to care enough to pirate it. Maybe that’s what we should really be worried about.

    • Well, actually, you can be sure that there is a correlation. You can’t be sure there is causation. But I didn’t respond to you just to pick nits. I’m pretty comfortable in saying that you should assume there is a causal connection because we have lots of other evidence that points in the same direction. Give the first one away for free has been a successful strategy in a wide variety of endeavors for a long, long, time.

  8. Piracy is just another way of saying FREE. FREE sells books which is why authors scramble to set a book FREE on Amazon. Maybe doesn’t help the way it once did but FREE is still powerful.

    Ignore the pirates. Not worth the time or energy. They’re probably even doing us a favor.

  9. I watched the first series on SKY when I owned a house. But then I had to move to a small apartment where SKY is not allowed and they have the sole rights. So I have pirated the show ever since. I don’t like it but everyone is talking about it and it’s the big thing with my son, who lives with me, and all of his friends.

  10. Never mind that those of us outside the US/UK cannot legally watch Game of Thrones in a timely manner at all, but have to wait approx. a year for it to hit our screens, often in a badly dubbed edition and broadcast in chunks of three or four episodes at a time to accomodate the binge watchers and disaccomodate pretty much everybody else.

    Though I did buy the DVD of season 1 and will buy 2 as well, as soon as the price comes down.

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