HBO has been dealing with piracy problems for years, but following the leak of the first four Game of Thrones episodes thanks to a shared critics screener, the company is taking major steps to make sure its fantasy drama and its extended lineup of critically acclaimed programming is not leaked again. This morning, the company announced that all critics screeners will now be available via an online streaming service. This won’t affect the average subscriber in any way, but it could affect those who have become notorious for watching pirated versions of HBO programs.
The move puts HBO on par with most of the other major networks, which already have screeners available on streaming sites, at least for new programming. The new service for critics will be available starting on Tuesday this week, and will kick off with a bunch of new episodes of Veep.
In the past, HBO has sent out non-HD DVD screeners to critics for shows like Girls, Game of Thrones, Looking and much, much more. However, just before the premiere of Season 5 of Game of Thrones on April 12, the first four episodes of the new season leaked, thanks to someone taking a non-HD press screener and posting the first four episodes online. The episodes were watched by more than a million piraters before the Season 5 premiere even aired on HBO.
Since then, the subscription cable network has been cracking down a bit more on pirating, sending out letters of notice and demanding episodes be pulled. In addition, venues that have in the past hosted viewing parties, like the Brooklyn bar Videology, were asked to stop airing the episodes of shows. HBO has stated that they are a subscription cable service, and as such, it should not be available to watchers in public establishments, such as bars.
Still, it’s not as if all of the piracy has had a hugely adverse affect on the Game of Thrones numbers. The Season 5 premiere saw nearly 8 million total viewers tune in the night it aired. That’s well up from the Season 4 premiere, and by the time the numbers were looked at again across platforms including HBO NOW and GO, more than 18 million total viewers had legally viewed the first episode “The Wars to Come.”
HBO has a lot invested in its fantasy drama, and it’s no surprise the service will do what it can to keep people watching Game of Thrones by legal means. Now the company can add more heavily guarded critics screeners to the list.
You can watch Game of Thrones by legal means on Sunday nights at 9 p.m., only on HBO. In the meantime, here's a very legal look at next week's episode.