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Why the Game of Thrones leak is good for HBO

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It’s being called the digital piracy leak of the decade (which pretty much makes it the biggest leak of all time) for a television show. The first four episodes of Game of Thrones season 5 have hit all of the major torrent sites and is spreading like wildfire. Should HBO be concerned?

What some are calling a “major blow” to the site is actually a very good thing. The shortsightedness of the telecom world is often pointed out when leaks happen, yet HBO seems to be the only ones who are okay with the leak. Sure, they have to publicly decry what has happened and feign disappointment, but here’s the thing: this is going to be great for promoting the show and bringing in more subscribers.

Unlike network television, HBO is paid. They get their money from subscriptions so it doesn’t really matter to them where their subscribers view the shows. Their goal is to get more subscribers and the leak will have the result of drawing in more people to become paying customers. The people who do not have access to HBO that download the episodes were never in contention of becoming customers in the first place, so those downloads are harmless. The ones who are already subscribed are, well, already subscribed.

This leaves those who are not subscribers but could be. For whatever reason, they have chosen to not subscribe in the past. Now that they get a taste of what’s to come, there is an opportunity for them to get on board.

Some are saying that ratings will be hurt as a result. We will see, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the ratings will be just fine. The percentage of people who download and watch episodes is a small drop in the bucket, particularly for a show as popular as Game of Thrones. The novelty here is that people don’t have to wait to see the first half of the season – they can binge it if they’d like. This is appealing, but will not hurt ratings nearly as much as many are saying.

It’s a good social experiment to see how ratings and revenues are affected. If it works out the way we expect it to, we may start to see more “leaks” of episodes from other shows in the future.

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