When it comes to Game of Thrones, resistance to spoilers is futile. If an actor or a reporter (or a revenge-minded ex) doesn’t spoil the show, HBO itself will.
The premium cable network has gone to great lengths to ensure that no one reveals upcoming plot points in the cult fantasy drama. But in a somewhat unexpected twist, HBO leaked last night’s harrowing episode itself. Whoops.
TorrentFreak, a site that monitors the worlds of file sharing and torrenting, reported yesterday (May 22) that HBO Nordic, the company’s streaming platform in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland, leaked the episode online roughly 24 hours before it was to air in the United States. The episode was only available for a few hours, but that was more than enough time for resourceful pirates to rip it and upload it to torrent sites.
“This past Sunday’s episode was made available early on the HBO Nordic platform temporarily due to a technical issue, at which time it seems to have been copied,” an HBO spokesperson said. “Upon learning of the incident, we used the available means to limit further access to the episode.”
This sort of leak isn’t unprecedented. Last year, Netflix made a similar oopsy daisy when it briefly leaked season three of House of Cards in its entirety two weeks before it was supposed to debut online. Netflix also said that its leak was due to a technical glitch, though some speculated that, due to the fortuitous timing, it was all just a marketing ploy.
HBO’s leak this weekend probably was not intentional, given how far the premium channel has gone to prevent spoilers from circulating online. For the first time, HBO is not sending TV critics episodes in advance, out of fear that they’ll be pirated (the first four episodes of season five found their way to torrent sites). The channel, along with the show’s actors, even fed the press lies and half-truths regarding the fate of Jon Snow, who “died” at the end of the last season but predictably returned, none the worse for wear.
Advances in streaming technology have made watching TV shows more convenient than ever, but it comes with its own risks. HBO can do a lot to protect its episodes, but sometimes the technology has a mind of its own (or it’s possible an HBO Nordic employee just pressed the wrong button at the wrong time).
Whatever the reason, HBO won’t mourn this leak too much. The thousands who illegally downloaded the episode wouldn’t have made much of a dent in the millions who watched it on TV or on streaming platforms. Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world, and that’s a title HBO is probably happy to keep.
This story was updated with comment from HBO.