HBO will air “Game of Thrones” at the exact same time around the world to combat piracy

Fighting back against pirates.
Fighting back against pirates.
Image: HBO/Helen Sloan
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The fifth season of Game of Thrones, which premieres on April 12 in the US, will be broadcast simultaneously around the planet.

HBO’s wildly popular fantasy show will air, as usual, on Sundays at 9pm in New York—which is also Mondays at 2am in London, 9am in Hong Kong, and noon in Auckland. Unusual times to watch a television drama, to be sure, but it will please some fans who can’t wait.

It will also, HBO hopes, cut down on illegal downloads of Game of Thrones, which is the most-pirated television show in the world. Eliminating the window between its first airing in the US and the rest of the world “is one step we’ve taken to mitigate piracy,” HBO spokesman Jeff Cusson confirmed to Quartz.

People go to extraordinary lengths to watch Game of Thrones in international markets. Take Australia, which is considered the largest source of piracy for the show. Episodes of the last season were aired only a couple of hours after the US broadcast on domestic pay TV. The problem is, in Australia most people don’t pay for TV, so they have no way to legitimately watch Game of Thrones while it’s fresh.

Historically, US shows have been delayed by weeks and months in the country, and a whole subculture of pirating content has sprung up, forcing broadcasters to fast-track shows at the expense of ratings. Whether a global simulcast of Game of Thrones will change this dynamic remains to be seen.

Still, it signals an interesting shift from HBO. Up until now, it has professed not to be terribly concerned about piracy, saying the illegal downloads help generate buzz for its programming. Jeff Bewkes, the CEO of HBO parent company Time Warner, once joked that Game of Thrones‘s status as the most pirated show in the world was “better than an Emmy.”

That attitude may change over time as the company tries to sell subscriptions directly to consumers, instead of relying on sales through pay TV companies. This week HBO announced it will launch its streaming service for cord cutters, known as HBO Now, in time for the Game of Thrones premiere in the US.

HBO CEO Richard Plepler seemed to hint at a global internet only offering in October. “We see a big opportunity for a stand-alone HBO product around the world,” he said.  But Cusson wrote in an email today that there are currently “no plans for HBO Now outside the US.”