House Piracy: Over 1 Million People Watched 'Game of Thrones' Illegally

Image credit: Keith Bernstein/HBO

According to the ratings, 6.7 million viewers tuned in for HBO's "Game of Thrones" premiere on Sunday night, breaking last years' premiere record. But the hour-long show broke another record - a record in online piracy.

According to TorrentFreak, a news site that tracks BitTorrent news, in less than a day, the show was downloaded a million times. "Never before has there been a torrent with so many people sharing a file at the same time, more than 160,000 simultaneous peers," the site reported.

BitTorrents are peer-to-peer networks created by individuals for sharing files. Those 160,000 peers refers to the number of people who were helping to share the video file with others. According to the report, at one point 163,000 people were downloading the same file.

Of course, downloading the show over BitTorrents is piracy. Both downloading and uploading the content is illegal. But most who use the site would rather take that risk than pay for HBO's premium cable channel or make use of HBO Go, which allows subscribers to stream many of the channel's shows on a computer or tablet.

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TorrentFreak also attributes the rise in the massive downloads to international airing delays and the fact that some outside the U.S. have to wait to see the latest episode. HBO, however, says it has addressed that issue with this premiere.

"In an effort to address piracy, HBO removed the window between the U.S. and international debut of 'Game of Thrones,' essentially launching its third season with a worldwide premiere," HBO said in a statement released to ABC News. "From initial data, we have seen the benefits of this strategy with viewership up significantly in international markets in comparison to last season, as well as a record premiere here in the U.S."

According to TorrentFreak's data, downloads were highest in the U.S. followed by the UK and Australia.

But HBO says that illegal content sharing comes with the territory. HBO's President of Programming Michael Lombardo recently told Entertainment Weekly that piracy is a "compliment of sorts" and "something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network."

HBO, however, said that it continues to take the issue seriously. "'Game of Thrones' is a global phenomenon and HBO uses every tool available to protect its content," it said in a statement. "Unfortunately, with such success also comes theft. Many anti-piracy tactics have been effective and we will continue to improve those efforts so we can continue to deliver high quality, acclaimed programming to our customers."