Spoilerphobes beware: “Game of Thrones” Season 5 got an early debut on piracy websites. Four episodes of the HBO drama hit illegal downloading websites Saturday night, Variety reported.
Fans have been anticipating the adventure-fantasy show’s return for months, so obviously many wanted to get their hands on the episodes as soon as they were available. The episodes are reportedly legitimate, and many are speculating a press screener is to blame.
The first four episodes were sent to several members of the media on press screeners, so journalists could write about the episodes in advance. “The leaked episodes are in 480p, which is equivalent to the quality of standard TV, and a digital watermark is blurred,” according to Mashable.
The files are likely watermarked with the recipient’s name. However, it appears many people had access to their own copies of the episodes with watermarks. Producer Greg Spence told the Denver Post he was worried about a leak, but files sent to the “Game of Thrones” cast and crew were also watermarked in hopes of preventing an early look.
“The cast is looping all over the world, sending files back and forth. Artists are working in special-effects houses all over the world. The files are watermarked, and editors have to confirm in writing that they’ve deleted them,” Spence said.
HBO confirmed to Mashable in a statement that the episodes came from a group it trusted to keep the footage private. “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,” a network representative said.
The series producers typically are very secretive because it is subject to so much piracy. In 2014, it was downloaded 204 million times, making it the most-pirated show of the year. It looks like it could be headed toward that designation again. Within 12 hours of the episodes going up, the four leaked episodes of “Game of Thrones” Season 5 had been downloaded 778,985 times, according to Excipio (via Variety).
In the past, the piracy rate of “Game of Thrones” was boosted largely because the drama wasn’t available on any legal websites to those without premium cable. However, this year is the first time that “GoT” fans without an HBO subscription can legally watch the show. HBO Now allows a user to pay $15 a month for Internet access to all shows on the network. It also gives fans a free monthlong trial.
“Game of Thrones” Season 5 legally premieres on HBO Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT.