Apr 142015
 

Four down, Seven up – why the Game Of Thrones leak ain’t so bad

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Before I start today, if you’re one of the few… actually many who could not resist the urge of the past few days and went ahead & illegally pirated the leaked four opening episodes of Game Of Thrones Season 5 – I don’t blame you. It’s a hot show and I can not wait to get around to watching it myself. I will be honest and hold my hands here to admitting the thought had crossed my mind to do it myself, if it not for a long weekend away and a time consuming workload. Alas I have thought long and hard about it and decided to save myself and my appetite for the weekly broadcast when it comes on here in the UK on Sky Atlantic.

But, consider this food for thought – you are not supporting the show by pirating it. Oh sure, you may go and buy merchandise and box sets of it after you’ve watched it for free at your own leisure, but you’re not adding eyes to it, you’re not adding to the value of the show to international markets and you’re not raising revenue so the production companies that create something you enjoy & the American pay channel that owns the rights to the show, HBO, can continually raise the production values to create a bigger & better Game Of Thrones. I hear the argument that it’s so big now that it doesn’t matter – what utter rubbish. Any show can be expanded upon even further with bigger advertising revenue and rights sales. That’s what we want to see right? An even slicker production of our heroes & villains of Westeros? A true fan would.

Also, what do you do when your pirated episodes run out? You’ve waited 40 odd weeks for HBO to deliver on another new season and now you have nothing to watch for a month after binge-ing? You’re an idiot. You’re just making it harder on yourself because you’ve had a taste of it and now can’t do anything about it. The worst aspect, is the same people who have gone & watched the leaked eps have then taken to social media to complain that they don’t have anymore to watch – WHAT IN THE BLUE HELL DID YOU EXPECT?! The whole season to be up there before it has a chance to air you petulant child?!?! You disgust me if you did that.

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The fact that the leaked episodes are only an average format of just 390p (more or less standard definition quality) does not exactly tempt me to go out of my way anymore either. To truly appreciate Game Of Thrones, you have to watch it in High-Definition or Blu-Ray quality (720p & up) such is the high production values. That may not be an option for some people still but they are in the growing minority as the option becomes cheaper with steps in technology and the growth of TV boxsets on demand & home media. At the end of the day, if you’re happy to watch a substandard and poorer quality of video, compared to what you can watch on satellite & additional affordable & reliable subscriptions (i.e. HD quality), then it is up to you to shut up & don’t complain when the show has to cut back in some areas rather than support an artform which you are a “fan” of.

But where does this shocking leak leave HBO and it’s various international distributors in terms of potential lost eyeballs not watching the product on screen? Well, I think they’ll be just dandy actually. It is pretty poor but in no way shape or form is it a mitigated disaster like some media outlets are calling it.

Its not a secret that Game Of Thrones is one of the most pirated television shows in the world, not just over the last few years but also, ever. Despite this, the live television viewership has increased nearly four-fold. When Thrones first started on HBO it was on average pulling in 2 million viewers. Three years later, throughout Season 4 it was about 7 million on average. That’s not including the additional millions on demand & catch up watching, which HBO claimed was about 13 million on Season 1. It is a hot TV show – people WANT to get their fix of it but on a decent format. With the high quality of the show in terms of production values and storylines, I do not think all of a sudden that 7 million will think “Oh I can watch half of this season now” – especially on a poorer format than what live TV & HD can offer – and ditch the channel all of a sudden.

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Another factor is time. Sunday night time in America is perfect for an end of the weekend treat before the working week begins and also Monday night in the UK is great for something to get you through that rubbish first day back. Shoving half a series into people’s laps and telling them “go nuts” is all well & good but some may not have that free time to go & plow through it. A scheduled time slot allows people to plan their free time or work around their viewing plans – a marathon half season just creates an opportunity to procrastinate from life’s responsibilities. I myself simply do not have the time to go and binge on the opening chunk of the season if I wanted to, so a weekly format when I can turn it into a family viewing opportunity and make it special is fine by me. It means more time to chew on ongoing storylines, more time to create anticipation & more time to savour moments of one of my favourite shows rather than burning through a series available at once. How much do you remember of Marvel & Neflix Daredevil after going through all of it in one day? Not very much I bet. With the weekly format, HBO & it’s distributors make it easier for you to sample on every juicy one hour morsel and appreciate it more rather than being spoiled.

Considering the leak came from review copies for the media, I can tell you for a fact that HBO are big enough a source to turn around and say “no more” until they can track down and fire the clever swine responsible into the sun for this troublesome episode. So they essentially will be going into lockdown for the end of the season which I fully support. Whilst it will be harder for TV news & review sites, they’ll agree that to stop piracy is for the greater good, rather than a couple of writers having an easier time rather than doing their job.

The fact that we’re looking at the first four episodes being leaked online is not the end of the world. Oh it’s awful in terms of a lack of support in some areas at the start but I doubt massively there will be a big drop off in viewership because those pirating are not contributing to viewing figures in the first place. If you’re not clued up on the books like me, then you can look forward to the last bunch still & that sweetly organised fix. Believe me when I say HBO will not let the conclusion of the latest part of it’s hottest TV show in years get out into the open. In a way, long term, this leak has helped get people who would normally wait for the season to finish before indulging, onboard for those can’t miss final set of eps and it may bump up ratings. Oh my! It was HBO’s plan all along!

Terry Lewis@lewisonlife.