It may finally feel like spring, but for “Game of Thrones” fans, winter has been a long time coming and some, it seems, just couldn’t wait. A day before the premiere of Season 5, which kicks off on Sunday at 9 p.m. ET, the first four episodes were leaked online.
The episodes showed up on several torrent sites between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. ET on Saturday, and by Sunday morning had been downloaded over one million times. The videos appear to be ripped from HBO press screeners sent to the reviewers in advance, but the watermark codes, used to track early release copies, have been blurred out.
"Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of 'Game of Thrones' originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them," the company said in a statement Sunday. "We're actively assessing how this breach occurred."
Despite HBO's efforts to decrease piracy this season by having the show air in as many countries as possible at roughly the same time, the leak is hardly unexpected.
With eight million downloads, “Game of Thrones” was the most pirated show of 2014. It also broke an all time piracy record when nearly 200,000 people simultaneously shared a single file of the second episode of Season 4, known to fans as “The Purple Wedding” – not to be confused with “The Red Wedding” of Season 3.
Additionally, the show already sprung a leak earlier this year when a cell phone captured footage of the Season 5 trailer prior to its release. And the purported leaker from this latest breach noted that, while he or she was only going to release four episodes Saturday evening, more may be coming, reports Mashable.
HBO has long been a victim of piracy, as it is available only in certain parts of the world and requires a paid subscription and, until recently, access to cable.
"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," Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, said of the show’s rampant piracy. "Our experience is, it all leads to more penetration, more paying subs, more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do paid advertising. 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."
But in an effort that may curb piracy slightly, HBO rolled out its stand-alone streaming service HBO Now on Tuesday, just in time for the season premiere of “Game of Thrones.” This new model will allow access to all of HBO’s content for $15 per month regardless of whether the user has a cable subscription.