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It appears that even leaked episodes that spread like wildfire were not enough to spoil the Season 5 debut for Game of Thrones on Sunday night. Indeed, the breach that saw the first four episodes of the new season illegally released online seemed to have no effect on the show’s momentum, which managed to rake in numbers that completely blew away last year’s premiere. Could it be that piracy is the proverbial fire against which the show’s Daenerys is invulnerable?
The performance of last Sunday’s Game of Thrones Season 5 premiere saw 7.99 million viewers tune in, besting the 6.6 million posted by the 2014 Season 4 counterpart. According to numbers posted by Deadline, that's a 1.39 million or 32% jump in viewers. That is certainly an impressive feat that has also yet to reflect added viewership in the digital medium with streaming service HBO Go and the channel’s new standalone streaming platform HBO Now.
Game of Thrones has been well-established as one of the most pirated shows each year, and the sudden and dramatic leak of the first four episodes of Season 5 on the morning that its season premiere was set to air seemed to be the kind of news that could put a huge damper on the big night. However, the premiere numbers seem to indicate that people are more than content to catch the show through legitimate means. While it may be difficult to qualify their motives, it is possible that the updated streaming options for HBO may very well have presented themselves as the desirable choice.
At the end of the day, HBO and Game of Thrones are products. Many consumers certainly want the best possible version of that brand, even, in this case, when the product is not even a physical medium that you can hold in your hand like a DVD/Blu-ray. The episodes that leaked on Sunday were reportedly low-quality press screeners without HD picture. Any self-respecting connoisseur of the show would certainly want the best and legitimately acknowledged experience of the show, rather than that or some seedy torrent that also needlessly relegates the viewer experience to a morally questionable, clandestine collusion.
It does seem that the traditional firewalls like costly long-term cable commitments that kept many viewers away from the premium cable channel are slowly starting to erode with the changing face of legitimate mediums, including HBO Go and Now. Besides, while the show promises several major alterations from George R.R. Martin’s original A Song of Ice and Fire books on which the show is based, book readers still, for the most part, have a general idea of the directions in which the show is heading. In essence, spoilers are already out there if you truly feel the need to be in the know regarding several of plots that the show will still likely hit. Therefore, the motivations to spoil oneself with an inferior illegal viewing experience are fairly low. At least, that’s my humble analysis of the tremendous numbers posted for the premiere, anyway.