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What The \'Game Of Thrones\' Leaked Episodes Mean For HBO
—the episodes sent out as screeners to reviewers everywhere, including yours truly—have been leaked online.
This is bad news for HBO, which just rolled out its cable-free stand-alone streaming service (and Netflix competitor) HBO Now on Tuesday. For $15/month you can now cut your cable and watch HBO shows, like
That’s great news for many viewers, and something I was arguing for years ago (despite being told by many, many people that this would be the death of good TV.)
Still, four leaked episodes constitutes nearly one half of Season 5, a season which I’ve argued is the most important yet in the series, and that’s a pretty big deal for any show. Will it turn off potential Now subscribers?
That seems like a real possibility, at least for the month it rolls out.
Gizmodo’s Maddie Stone argues that “If it were me, I’d pull a Netflix and release the entire season at once, so that my fans didn’t have to choose between avoiding weeks of internet spoilers and downloading the episodes illegally.”
That’s an interesting idea, of course, but HBO isn’t Netflix and many viewers still watch their HBO on regular old-fashioned TVs. Many more will never think to download episodes illegally. It’s a pretty big risk to just release everything at once. HBO is still beholden to traditional ratings expectations as well, unlike Netflix, and there’s no telling what binge-releasing would do to the ratings, but I doubt it would be good, at least in the short term.
There’s still something to be said for mounting hype and excitement as the story unfolds over the weeks. Even having screeners for review purposes is a bit of a double-edged sword.
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Forbes contributor Joseph Steinberg wonders whether the leaked episodes were hacked or leaked via screener copies.
I think it’s almost certain that screeners were leaked. A hack would have almost certainly resulted in more episodes leaked. Besides it’s too much of a coincidence.
Steinberg also writes, “Data should be stored and transmitted in encrypted formats, made available to only those people who need access to it in order to do their jobs, and treated as the valuable resource that it truly is. Also, to both discourage leaks and facilitate investigations if a leak were to occur, digital watermarking should be utilized when sensitive videos need to be distributed to outside parties; it is unclear if HBO did so with its digital screeners of Game of Thrones, but, if it did, the technology might help track down the source of the leak.”
Just to clarify, HBO does include watermarks on its screeners and I’ve little doubt they only send screeners to people who need them to do their job. Perhaps whoever leaked these was able to circumvent this. It’s a shame that someone placed in a position of trust would break that trust, but I suppose when you screen the game of thrones you win or you die or something.
Either way, I think that if you can legally access HBO’s programming, the responsible and ethical thing to do is to watch the show by paying for it or at least watching at a friend’s house. I realize that for many people with no access to HBO (because of their geographical location, usually) this is much more of a conundrum. If you already pay for HBO, downloading the leaked episodes is a bit of a grey area.
But really, do you really want to spoil the show weeks in advance? Isn’t it a bit like opening Christmas presents the week before Christmas?
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As a Hungarian with no HBO Now, this is my reaction: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I agree why do idiotic reporters and interviewers ask for spoilers to the show? It’s like asking a moviestar ‘can you tell me what happens at the end of the movie before it happens?’ Just silly. And for piracy, it’s inevitable in this day & age, there are no real ethics online, you have to play the game of thrones and do a Netflix “when you play the game of streaming, you win or you die”
I’m not sure that you and I are using the term “watermarks” to mean the same thing – I mean data hidden within the file in a way that cannot be readily removed or blurred out. Even if the file was lifted from DVD and its format converted enough watermarking information is supposed to remain to track the source. Anyone who had the DVD legally would know that if he or she leaked its contents the odds of getting caught are quite high. As far as hacking – if someone with the DVD in his or her computer was hacked the screener could be obtained. Time will tell what happened… maybe…
Good point, Joseph. This is what’s written verbatim on the screener DVD:
This DVD has been watermarked with a unique identifier that allows us to identify you as the source of any unauthorized copies. You are responsible for any unauthorized use, reproduction, transmission, or distribution of this DVD.
I can understand the logic of sending out one or maybe two episodes out to reviewers in advance. It reminds them, should they forget, when the new season is going to start and makes it much more likely that they will be somewhat kinder should they find something about an episode they don’y like.
But FOUR episodes? Someone at HBO got a little too generous there to say the least.
As for the idea of releasing the entire season…that assumes that the entire season is ready for broadcast. Sure, they may have finished filming but the episodes still need to be edited and I’d be surprised if they’ve finished that process for the entire season yet.
Well I believe they’ve done this each year. If I recall correctly they sent out the first six in season 1 (though I did not request screeners until this year.)
I can understand sending out several episodes when the show started. After all not that many people would have even heard of Game of Thrones and those who had would most likely be somewhat skeptical as to turning it into a TV show. But it should have been clear that such marketing (even if it is indirect) wasn’t needed past the second season if not the first. Certainly they shouldn’t have been sending out that many episodes by the end of season 3, it was hardly as if pirating wasn’t a concern at that point.
Don’t be surprised if next season they only send out two episodes, or arrange for private viewings rather than sending episodes out at all.
I don’t think anyone at HBO has to worry about their job, but some questions are going to be asked. And God help whoever did leak this because they will have lost their job, and most likely any possibility of being employed in the field again; HBO can blacklist any company who even thinks about hiring that person and not have it hurt them, at least as far as GoT goes.
I find it somewhat strange that I’m discussing a TV series I don’t actually like at this point. And yes, I HAVE watched the first three seasons in their entirety and kind of wished I hadn’t had to. Even so I do think HBO has been remarkably good in how they have marketed the show and dealt with its fans. Someone, somewhere, has betrayed that trust and needs to be hauled over the coals for doing so.
By torrenting you get the first four episodes for free. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what you get with a free trial of HBO Now (one month, long enough for four episodes).
I don’t really think the leaks mean anything. I watched the leaked first episode last night. Guess what…I’m still watching the live premiere episode on HBO, which I pay for monthly, right now.
The fact is, there are always going to be people who are unwilling to pay for things like HBO, and they’re going to find a way to watch the shows they want to watch on premium networks. There are also people like me who pay for HBO, but will gladly watch leaked versions of the first few episodes if they’re available to me before the actual release.
Regardless, I don’t think this means anything. The type of people who are watching the leaked episodes are the same people who weren’t going to pay for HBO anyway, or they’re people who are already paying for HBO and just want to see an episode a few weeks early. Either way, it’s not going to impact HBO’s bottom line.