HBO isn’t playing at war, it’s fighting one.
During a season plagued by leaks and accidental airings, HBO’s flagship series Game of Thrones has managed to pull in bigger and bigger audiences.
In the latest threat, hackers who stole 1.5 terabytes worth of HBO data, including episodes of its shows, scripts, personal details of its stars, credentials for its social-media accounts, and other confidential information, have threatened to release the upcoming season-seven finale of Game of Thrones before it airs on Sunday (Aug. 27). Unless the US cable-TV network pays a multi-million-dollar ransom, that is. But why should it?
HBO accidentally leaked another episode—not for the first time—and it still pulled in an enormous TV audience.
The sixth episode of the current season, “Beyond the Wall,” saw a slight drop from the prior episode’s record 10.7 million viewers, but racked up a roaring 10.2 million live- and same-day viewers on Aug. 20, four days after HBO mistakenly released the episode early in Europe. It was the second most-watched episode of Game of Thrones ever. Another previously leaked episode this season also set a viewership record.
The penultimate season’s average over its first six episodes is up 30% over the full previous season—even with the threats, leaks, and rampant piracy.
At this rate, the biggest thing Game of Thrones has to worry about is the realism of its ravens. Fans, who willfully accepted the existence of a zombie ice dragon in the last episode, have started to seriously question the plausibility of Westeros’s swift-moving messenger birds.
“They seemed to be very concerned about how fast a raven can fly,” Alan Taylor, who directed episode six, told Variety. “If the show was struggling, I’d be worried about those concerns, but the show seems to be doing pretty well.”