The first four episodes of season five of Game of Thrones began to leak onto piracy sites a day before the season’s scheduled premiere on HBO Sunday night, TorrentFreak reported.
Copies of those first four episodes were first spotted on a private torrent tracker called IPT, but have since shown up on public sites such as The Pirate Bay, RARBG and KickassTorrents, the report added, citing an unnamed source that “the leak most likely originates from review copies sent to the press.”
Update: "Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of Game of Thrones originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them. We're actively assessing how this breach occurred," an HBO official said via email.
TorrentFreak said the season five episodes in question, all in standard-definition quality, had been downloaded more than 100,000 times within three hours of the leak on Saturday, and expected that number to increase to more than 1 million later on Sunday (April 12).
Variety, citing data from Excipio, reported that the leaked episodes had been downloaded by more than 778,985 clients worldwide by Sunday at 9 a.m. ET.
HBO has timed the season five premiere around last week’s launch of HBO Now, a new stand-alone version of the service that is initially being offered for $14.99 per month via Apple and Cablevision Systems’ Optimum Online service. Sling TV, Dish Network’s OTT service for cord-cutters, added HBO to its pay-TV bundle last week for an additional $15 per month.
The latest bout of piracy should all but ensure that GoT will maintain the dubious honor of being the world's most pirated TV show.
Heading into Sunday’s season five premiere, episodes from seasons 1-4 of GoT were downloaded more than 7 million times between February 5 and April 6, according to data collected by Irdeto. That kept Game of Thrones well ahead of other shows targeted by pirates, including The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad, Vikings and House of Cards.