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Pirates Steal 'Game Of Thrones': Why HBO Doesn't Mind

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Pirates Steal 'Game Of Thrones': Why HBO Doesn't Mind

Television

Pirates Steal 'Game Of Thrones': Why HBO Doesn't Mind

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JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

It's WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Jacki Lyden.

(SOUNDBITE OF THEME MUSIC, "GAME OF THRONES")

LYDEN: Ah, "Game of Thrones." I'm hooked. The Lannisters, the Starks, the dragon eggs and the Iron Throne. This is what more than one million fans across the world heard when they downloaded the premiere episode of season three. They did it illegally the day after it aired and set the dubious record for the most people sharing a single download simultaneously.

"Game of Thrones" is the HBO fantasy series based on writer George R. R. Martin's epic novel "A Song of Ice and Fire." Last year, the show was named the most illegally downloaded television show on TorrentFreak. That's a blog that reports about the latest trends on file sharing.

Here to talk about what all this online piracy means for the future of TV is Graeme McMillan. He's a writer for Wired.com, and he joins us now. Thanks for being with us, Graeme.

GRAEME MCMILLAN: Hello there.

LYDEN: So many people are crazy for this show. More than a million people downloading it after its premiere this season last Sunday night. That's a lot of dragon eggs, Graeme.

MCMILLAN: It's a lot of people who are very interested in seeing it immediately, which is one of the things that people are very focused on in terms of piracy, the seeing it immediately and not waiting for it to air in their particular location.

LYDEN: So who are these "Game of Thrones" pirates? Where do they live?

MCMILLAN: They're international. The majority of people for this particular episode were actually American, which is a first. Previously, they have been predominantly Australian, oddly enough.

LYDEN: So I have to pay HBO to watch this show. According to your reports, HBO has been a little bit off topic about all these millions of illegal downloads, yes?

MCMILLAN: Traditionally, studios and networks are very much on the line of downloading is bad, illegal piracy is bad, we do not support this at all. HBO has been surprisingly polite, if not kind, about the illegal downloads. You had HBO's programming chief, Michael Lombardo, saying a couple of weeks ago that his bigger concern wasn't the people who were downloading, but that by downloading, they'd get an inferior product.

LYDEN: Now, last year, didn't a number of HBO fans say that they wish they could somehow purchase only this show?

MCMILLAN: Currently, if you want to stream HBO content online, you have to sign up for the cable channel. There was an online campaign called Take My Money, HBO! that was essentially, we'd love to stream your shows, we'd like to pay for this, but we don't want to sign up for a cable subscription. Can you offer something else? And HBO has teased the option before. They've said, maybe, if we can get the math correct. But they've never really come out and said this is something we're interested in.

LYDEN: In their view, would it undercut the programming of other series it was creating?

MCMILLAN: Their concern is in order to stay competitive with other streaming services, they would have to have a low price point for streaming, which would undercut the cable subscription.

LYDEN: Does all this piracy ultimately hurt the network itself?

MCMILLAN: I'm not sure it does. I think it really raises the profile of the show and raises the profile of HBO in general. One of the HBO directors for "Game of Thrones," a guy called David Petrarca, actually said: No, it's great. It really helps the show's cultural buzz, and it does not impact the bottom line because HBO has more than enough money to keep making the show.

So what this is is this makes HBO the center of a cultural conversation about illegal downloading, about streaming content, about the production of content and distribution of content, which is probably somewhere they really want to be.

LYDEN: That's Graeme McMillan. He's a writer for wired.com. Well, Graeme, I'm going back to Winterfell. Thank you very much for being with us.

MCMILLAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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