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Game of Thrones' Purple Wedding piracy has stark lesson for media business

Column Game of Throngs
Thu Apr 17 2014, 13:45

I WATCHED the Game of Thrones Purple Wedding episode this week.

I watched it at my parents' house.

They, you see, have Sky and Sky Atlantic, which I do not. I have Virgin Media, and no obvious connection to Rupert Murdoch, dragons and nudity like so many Sky households.

I've seen all of Game of Thrones that there is to see actually, and some episodes more than others, even without a Sky account.

This, and this may surprise some of you, has been achieved through a combination of buying DVDs and investing in the show on the Blinkbox on-demand you buy it, you keep it service.

I have invested rather heavily in the show already, so I'm not much inclined to switch my TV and internet provider over it, and I probably will continue to watch the series at my folks' house in the bosom of my family.

I'm relatively alone here, apparently, as much of my internet peer group chooses not to sofa surf their way out of the house and into another where Game of Thrones is legitimately showing. Instead they grab it from the first available source. This is human nature.

We heard this week, as we have heard before, that Game of Thrones is a torrent-users' lure, and a record-breaking one at that. So popular, and must-seeable, was the Purple Wedding episode that it was downloaded 15 million times in its first day of being seeded.

Say what you want about internet piracy, and I expect you will do that in the comments, what this shows is that HBO and Sky have a solid gold hit on their hands.

HBO, in the past, has been reflective about the show's attraction for downloaders, saying that it is a nod that is as good as an award, but I expect that someone, somewhere will be rueing perceived lost profits. But perhaps piracy isn't the problem. Perhaps it is sheer demand.

I could sign up to Sky and Sky Atlantic, and pay a starting fee of over £20 a month for the privilege. Since I don't feel like I miss much on the Sky channels, I work this out to be a fiver a show, if we assume that there are roughly four weeks in most months and four episodes.

After the series ends I would still have Sky, but I'd be stuck watching US crime shows and documentaries about gangs in far-away places. Or not, as the case would most definitely be.

The irony, and the truth, is that I would probably pay a fiver to watch Game of Thrones as it goes live, or as close to broadcast as possible.

Five quid - £2.50 would be preferable - would seem like a reasonable sum to pay, straight into the pocket of HBO, if that was how it wanted it, for a show that you have to stay off the internet to avoid spoiling for yourself.

Netflix gets it right. It picks up good shows and jams them all online at the same time. It is more reasonably priced, but it does not have Game of Thrones. It does have good shows, though, and I have been glad to subscribe and binge watch Arrested Development, Orange is the New Black and House of Cards as and when they become available.

Sky and HBO are entitled to limit their content, that is the business that they are in. However I'm afraid that until they come up with a way to make it as available as possible as soon as it is possible, they will always lose viewers to the unofficial channels. Of course, this might not bother HBO at all.

Me, I'll stick with the parental perch and keep my cash out of Murdoch's pocket.

I might say that I could pick up the books and read them, but hey, books do not make apple crumble like my mum does. µ


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