'Game Of Thrones'
Season three of "Game of Thrones" just concluded, but there is still plenty of speculation for the hit series' fourth season. HBO

Once again, “Game of Thrones” is setting piracy records. Bringing in an extraordinarily high average of 5.2 million BitTorrent downloads each episode, “Game of Thrones” has become the single most pirated show of the 2012-2013 season, according to numbers from TorrentFreak.

It should come as no surprise that “Game of Thrones” topped the list of most pirated shows this season. It was already named the most pirated show of 2012 in January, and just a few weeks ago, it set BitTorrent records for the highest number of downloaders on a single episode. Clearly, “Game of Thrones” is extremely popular with pirates. But why?

One interesting note is the unusual ratio of downloaders to live viewers for “Game of Thrones.” Most other shows feature far more live watchers than BitTorrent downloaders. “How I Met Your Mother,” for example, features 10.5 million live viewers and only 2.9 million downloaders. Contrast that to the average episode of “Game of Thrones,” which brings in approximately 5.2 million downloaders and 5.5 million legal viewers. The numbers are almost identical, showing that many fans have difficulty watching “Game of Thrones” live.

By and large, the majority of “Game of Thrones” fans turn to torrents because they have no (free) legal way of watching their favorite show. HBO offers subscribers an online streaming service called HBO Go, which lets users stream HBO shows on their computers or other devices. But it's available only to those with a cable subscription to HBO in the first place. And unlike networks like CBS and NBC, HBO never makes episodes of “Game of Thrones” available on free streaming sites like Hulu.

An increasingly large number of television fans have been abandoning the physical box in favor of subscription streaming services like Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon Prime. For these users, subscribing to HBO Go in order to watch “Game of Thrones” would mean buying both a cable subscription and a premium HBO subscription on top of that. Potential customers would be paying as much as $70 a month just to watch “Game of Thrones” legally for 10 weeks out of the year. Many viewers are unwilling to do that.

All of this puts HBO in a curious position. They have a hit product (“Game of Thrones”) and a die-hard fanbase, but no way to legally put their product into the hands of many of these fans.

Check out the 10 most pirated TV shows of the 2012-2013 season below, courtesy of TorrentFreak. Shows are listed with the number of average downloads per episode alongside the number of live viewers for each episode.

  1. “Game of Thrones” — 5.2 million downloads, 5.5 million viewers
  2. “The Big Bang Theory” — 2.9 million downloads, 20 million viewers
  3. “How I Met Your Mother” — 2.85 million downloads, 10.5 million viewers
  4. “The Walking Dead” — 2.7 million downloads, 12.4 million viewers
  5. “Hannibal” — 2.1 million downloads, 4.4 million viewers
  6. “Vikings” — 1.9 million downloads, 6.2 million viewers
  7. “Arrow” — 1.85 million downloads, 4.1 million viewers
  8. “The Vampire Diaries” — 1.8 million downloads, 3.2 million viewers
  9. “Modern Family” — 1.75 million downloads, 12.5 million viewers
  10. “Revenge” – 1.7 million downloads, 9.7 million viewers