News Press Season 3

HBO exec calls piracy of Game of Thrones a “compliment”

Love it or hate it, piracy has become a huge topic of conversation surrounding this series. So much so, that HBO’s President of Programming Michael Lombardo recently addressed the issue in an interview with EW.

“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” Lombardo said. “The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”

The show is currently, on a per-season basis, the network’s top money-earner despite widespread piracy of the show, the executive confirmed. “If you look at aggregate of international and DVD sales — which are the two revenue streams we look at since we’re not selling it domestically on another platform — yes, absolutely, in terms of shows we have on now,” Lombardo said.

Along those same lines, HBO CEO Richard Plepler spoke with Tech Crunch and echoed many of Lombardo’s sentiments. Plus he gives quite a rousing endorsement for season 3.


 

UPDATE: Those pirates continue to compliment Game of Thrones as the season 3 premiere is smashing download records, according to TorrentFreak.

Winter Is Coming: Biggest takeaway from this? The fact that Game of Thrones is now HBO’s top-earner. The issue of piracy must seem pretty inconsequential when the show is so profitable.

46 Comments

  • I’d wager a relatively significant number of people pirate it because they don’t have HBO, or are in a country where it’s shown a lot later or on a different subscription network (like Sky Atlantic in the UK), but then buy the DVD/Blu-ray to watch again when that’s eventually released, thus making piracy relatively insignificant at the end of the day.

  • badblokebob:
    I’d wager a relatively significant number of people pirate it because they don’t have HBO, or are in a country where it’s shown a lot later or on a different subscription network (like Sky Atlantic in the UK), but then buy the DVD/Blu-ray to watch again when that’s eventually released, thus making piracy relatively insignificant at the end of the day.

    You were supposed to say Hodor!

    You had ONE job!

  • ebevan91: You were supposed to say Hodor!

    You had ONE job!

    I see what you did there ;)

    Sure it is a compliment, next episode is gonna be sick!

  • badblokebob,

    Indeed.

    It’s actually amazing how popular the show is worldwide. Just take a look at the front page of Kickasstorrents.

    One torrent of Got S03e01 has been been downloaded 172, 993 times in a day.
    The Walking dead season finale has been downloaded 6,480 times.

    Both extremely good and popular shows, but GoT has been downloaded over 20 times more than TWD. Pretty incredible.

  • In Russia, you can watch GoT 1 week after it’s US release and only in russian. As I want a genuine experience (because they mute original voices here), I download the show illegally and then buy a blu ray set.

  • badblokebob:
    I’d wager a relatively significant number of people pirate it because they don’t have HBO, or are in a country where it’s shown a lot later or on a different subscription network (like Sky Atlantic in the UK), but then buy the DVD/Blu-ray to watch again when that’s eventually released, thus making piracy relatively insignificant at the end of the day.

    This is exactly the reason I do it.

    I live in the UK, have been a long time huge fan of the books since last century, have bought countless items of memorabilia and followed and supported whenever I can.

    To get Sky Atlantic, you dont just subscribe to the one channel, but a whole network! I just cant afford that so have to stream the episodes.

    However, I buy the DVDs when they come out, buy the supporting books and attend the promo events as much as I can.

    I have personally gotten more than a dozen people into the books, and they have each passed it on. I think they have got it right to not worry about the piracy as the revenue generation from other areas is far more.

    What I think they could do though, would be to have it as a pay per view online. So say you pay £3 per episode to watch it.

    I would pay this!! Just make sure its available in the UK :D

  • It’s clear that despite what anti-piracy hardliners continue to parrot, the relationship between piracy rates and revenue levels is a grey and complicated area. Common sense, as borne out by the HBO exec comments above, suggests to me that the better the show, the lower the impact of piracy, irrespective of how much of it is going on. If a show is good, many viewers will use piracy as a stop-gap if they can’t access it any other way and then buy it legally when it does become available in their area. In addition, there may be an additional marketing payoff akin to word-of-mouth, if pirates previously unfamiliar with the show, like what they get. However, if a show is at best, patchy, then viewers will use piracy as an alternative to buying as they won’t consider it good enough to spend their money on. So the only guys who need to be afraid of pirates are those who make poor shows!

  • It’s just a shame there is no way to quantify or separate ‘good piracy’ and ‘bad piracy’. As others have pointed out, the majority of the people downloading the torrents are, like myself, huge fans of the show, pay for the TV channel that broadcasts the show, buy the blu-rays when they come out, and a shit-ton of merchandise to boot, but live in a country where the broadcast is delayed behind the US showing and want to get it at the same time.

  • Unlike last year, HBO now has a streaming site available in my country. So this season, I pay to watch Game of Thrones legally. However, I still downloaded the episode since there is no reason not to. I like to have them in my digital collection. My point is that piracy numbers are hard to draw conclusions from, other than the fact that people are very interested in Game of Thrones.

  • I do think piracy drives up DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and while it probably costs them some subscriptions, the vast majority of downloads are probably people in other countries or people who would not pay otherwise.

    That said, since HBO can’t do anything about it, this is the most pragmatic answer anyway.

    As for those who want direct download/streaming from HBO without another provider, how much per month would you be willing to pay? I’d imagine it would be about $50 or more to make sense to HBO, for a variety of reasons.

  • I like the CEO. He seems like a cool guy.

    Wow, his praise of season three is pretty awesome. I mean, he’s the head of the company so a lot of it is hype, but still, to hear it from the head of the network is pretty huge

  • I have hbo, or at my dad does at least, but I still pirate a lot of the episodes. I don’t have a tv available that has hbo on it and my internet connection is too slow/hbogo is too clogged when new episodes are released so downloading it allows me to watch a few hours sooner than I would have if I waited for hbogo to be less congested.

  • As one of those sad people who doesn’t have HBO, I can definitely understand why piracy is an issue. I just suck it up and wait until it comes out on DVD so I can watch everything at once, but the wait is killer.

  • The bottom line is THE most important thing to these guys. So it’s great to hear GoT is doing the best of all their shows.

  • Once again; if you’re more pissed off about piracy than the HBO exec’s are, then you need to get some perspective.

  • I used to download it since it was that, or wait allmost a year for the DVD…
    Then they opened HBO Nordic… Now I can pay for it… and do.
    (it allso give me all the other HBO stuff, other series not made by HBO and a number of movies)

    So If they want to solve the problem, give more countries the same option…

  • I just remembered how back in the days everybody would copy music cassette tapes without ever considering it to be illegal…

  • dizzy,

    You make that sound like a bad thing, without making money they (and the many people working at HBO) would lose their jobs. Of course the bottom line is most important lol.

  • Anyone know why the Game of Thrones trailers were removed?! This includes the one that had 20 million views!!

    When I go to the link, it says this:

    “Game Of Thrones Se…” This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Doğuş Yayın Grubu A.S..

    First Seven Devils, now this. What the hell is going on!

  • How can they really tell that piracy doesn’t affect the DVD sales when the show has been massively downloaded since it began?

    NickTargaryen,

    Because the youtube system of copyright claims is a joke, Nick.

  • I’d be really interested to know how the download numbers for Scandinavia changed after they set up their streaming service, HBO Nordic. Also looks like the subscription channel shows it one day after now instead of two months after.

  • ebevan91,

    :D. Hilarious.

    I know this exec is obviously doing PR etc, but his comments still have me excited like hell. Just the thought that episode 1 of this season could be the worst one has me salivating no end.

  • aagaard,

    Exactly! I got HBO Nordic to watch Game of Thrones, but I’ve used it to finally watch the entire run of The Wire, catch up on Girls, and started watching that Vikings show (which is ok but wildly inaccurate). I wish they’d increase the quality though. I don’t usually care so much but I know for a fact I can get a clearer picture for free.

  • as Tyrion says: ‘The king is a lost cause, it’s the rest of us I’m worried about now’

    & I rephrase: ‘Our show will never get affected. It’s the rest of the shows I’m worried now’

    I download through torrent cause its not available in my country. But, towards the end i make up for it. Piracy really affects the shows that are really long and have medium quality and are not worth the price put on their episodes. I used to download some shows but, I don’t even bother downloading them. For me it’s a waste of my bandwidth even downloading those shows now.

  • Hollyoak:
    I like the CEO. He seems like a cool guy.

    Wow, his praise of season three is pretty awesome. I mean, he’s the head of the company so a lot of it is hype, but still, to hear it from the head of the network is pretty huge

    Seriously–this is so promising. “Mesmerising” and “holy shit” are EXACTLY the reactions I’d hope to hear about season three, particularly the latter!!

    It gives me great hope that though the RW may be devastating to watch, it will be done so beautifully that it won’t be a turn-off for casual viewers (if Thrones has any “casual” viewers anymore), but will instead compel them to come back.

  • Isabelle: Seriously–this is so promising. “Mesmerising” and “holy shit” are EXACTLY the reactions I’d hope to hear about season three, particularly the latter!!

    I think this is the first time I heard an exec praise a show with “holy shit.” Mr. Richard sounds like a fanboy. =) Very positive in my opinion.

  • Katja:
    aagaard,

    Exactly! I got HBO Nordic to watch Game of Thrones, but I’ve used it to finally watch the entire run of The Wire, catch up on Girls, and started watching that Vikings show (which is ok but wildly inaccurate). I wish they’d increase the quality though. I don’t usually care so much but I know for a fact I can get a clearer picture for free.

    Why is it inaccurate? Really curious to know from a “real” viking ;)

    I just saw the first 2 episodes and I found them better than expected, they really try to show their way of thinking, their laws (how you could pay a price in gold after killing someone for example, that you had could not pass more than 2 houses without confessing your murder, etc) I also love how they intertwine the religion in the show and how strong the female characters are.

  • Alan:
    I do think piracy drives up DVD/Blu-Ray sales, and while it probably costs them some subscriptions, the vast majority of downloads are probably people in other countries or people who would not pay otherwise.

    That said, since HBO can’t do anything about it, this is the most pragmatic answer anyway.

    As for those who want direct download/streaming from HBO without another provider, how much per month would you be willing to pay? I’d imagine it would be about $50 or more to make sense to HBO, for a variety of reasons.

    I agree with your points . Plepler’s response was definitely a pragmatic one, especially
    since HBO cannot effectuate policy. They do have influence however, and it’s nice to
    hear publicly of the impact and implications of the issue. HBO Go was briefly
    addressed also, along with acknowledging availability and affiliate issues in non
    US regions.

    DVD sales are performing well, but difficult to conclude who makes that purchase.
    I’m just happy additional $ support comes from another revenue stream. One of my
    ” affluent ” neighbours receives ” illegal cable access “, receiving every premium
    channel for free. There isn’t a single DVD of any given show, just music. I was
    annoyed with his bragging rights, but not enough to take the risk of being caught
    myself. I deem it’s fair to support certain programming. I do the same for PBS
    and stations like Pacifica, which broadcasts programs like ” Democracy Now “

  • Delta1212:
    Mimsy,

    Well based on his comment, I don’t think “shit” is the word he originally used.

    Indeed! But he certainly used it in the interview, even if it was a placeholder.

    And hey–if that’s his “toned down” reaction, even more brilliant! : )

  • If the Blu-Ray sales were not there and there was evidence of people cancelling subscriptions, I think their reaction would be very different.

    As it stands, profits are going up, licensing revenue is up, buzz is there, and, most of all, disc sales are very strong. HBO prefers to see it in a glass-half full manner and know well that getting **RIAA twitchy about this** is not likely to benefit their bottom line. As their existing profits are trending up, not down, they’ll prepared to be philosophical about it, particularly as merchandise licensing and disc sales give them an opportunity to recapture a real potion of lost revenue – and in some part (large or small) that appears to be happening.

    If that trend reverses, however, they will go hawkish about it in an instant.

  • Steel_Wind,

    Exactly. It’s easy to be generous in times of plenty. Still, I’ll respect them for not being dicks about it anyway when they’d have every legal right to be. I think HBO has actually shown one of the most mature and realistic views of piracy (that being: the best way to combat it isn’t to get pissed off and attack the pirates but to adapt your distribution as best you can to accommodate more people), and I say this as someone who is largely, though not staunchly, anti-piracy.

  • Like most Australians, I download the show. Not because there is a delay (they are showing it a mere two hours after the US down here) but because pay TV is overpriced, generally shows a lot of rubbish and is owned by Rupert Murdoch to boot . However, I have bought the first three books and the first season on DVD. George has made money from me. HBO has made money from me. I suspect this is true of many who download.

  • Oh and I forgot to say, I would pay to legitimately download the show from iTunes or the like if it was made available soon after the US broadcast. Right now it isn’t.

  • msd,
    Idk if that’s true for most people, but it’s true for me. Between DVDs, books, and merchandise I’ve probably spent about 200 dollars.

  • no one wants to buy an untested product. watching the show is the equivalent to handing out free samples. People enjoying the product and the word of mouth generated from those free samples leads to DVD/merch sales.

    or you can be a dick and try to ban everything that is not paid for… yeah, that’ll go well.