Videology, a small neighborhood bar in Brooklyn, celebrated the premiere of "Game of Thrones" Season 5 by throwing a screening party and charging a fee for food and drinks. Although loyal "Game of Thrones" viewers who frequent the bar saw this as a venue to celebrate the premiere of a favorite show, HBO considered it as profiting off its show and issued the establishment a cease-and-desist order.
"As a pay subscription service, HBO should not be made available in public establishments," an official HBO email statement said. "When it does happen, it is of particular concern when there is an attempt to profit off the programming. We have taken such actions for well over a decade," it said.
There were mixed reactions to HBO's move. There were some fans who likened the screening parties to sports bars showing sporting events—which is good for the sporting event, and even the network that airs the event. Any other news network that can generate publicity for its show using the same strategy may just go for it.
However, for "Game of Thrones," the subject of piracy has reached an all-time high. A few hours before the premiere aired, the first four episodes were leaked online. In seven days, those episodes were downloaded 32 million times across 18 million IP addresses. The U.S. led the torrent frenzy, of course, accounting for 10 percent of the downloads.
According to Reddit, one user received a letter from HBO asking him to "immediately take steps to prevent further downloading or uploading of HBO content without authorization."
But this is nothing new, "Game of Thrones" was the most illegally downloaded TV series in 2014, according to TorrentFreak, a piracy tracking site. At that time, HBO programming president told Entertainment Weekly that it was "a compliment of sorts," that didn't impact on DVD sales. In 2013, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes commented that the amount of piracy surrounding "Game of Thrones" was "better than an Emmy."
That was then; this is now. What could have spurred the change of heart? Some say it is because of the high production costs for Season 5—around $6 million per episode. It could also be because HBO is trying to drive traffic to HBO Now which allows cord cutters to pay only for HBO instead of using someone else's HBO Go password.
Preventing "Game of Thrones" from being pirated or illegally downloaded is like trying to stop winter from coming, according to gizmodo.com. For now, the show's ratings are still good—the premiere for Season 5 drew 8 million viewers, dominating Sunday-night cable programming.