The first episode of "Supergirl," the upcoming CBS show starring Melissa Benoist, attracted hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads Friday thanks to sites like Kickass Torrents. CBS Press

The pilot episode of the upcoming show “Supergirl” took flight on piracy sites Friday, six months before it was scheduled to make its debut on CBS. High-quality, watermark-free video downloads originated with the ETTV and DiMENSION torrent release groups before spreading to Kickass Torrents and other piracy hot spots.

The first “Supergirl” files appeared online just before 3 a.m. EDT Friday, the piracy-tracking firm Excipio told Variety. It was downloaded more than 120,000 times within six hours, but the numbers will undoubtedly continue to rise as copies of the show spread like wildfire across seedier parts of the Web. The upcoming NBC show “Crowded” was also leaked by the same distributors.

This comes only weeks after the first four episodes of the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” leaked online and months after the premiere of CW’s “The Flash” leaked.

Unlike those shows, though, the pirated copies of “Supergirl” have high-definition video. Normally the leak of a show can be blamed on a critic or blogger who was sent review copies only to upload that file online. That doesn’t seem to be the case here, because review screeners contain visible watermarks that are unique to each critic, as well as warnings that the show shouldn’t be shared elsewhere.

The absence of either a watermark or a warning has led to speculation that CBS intentionally leaked “Supergirl” to drum up publicity for a show that’s expected to be an anchor of its fall lineup. If that’s the case, mission accomplished. But that logic ignores the fact that an NBC show also leaked, as well as TorrentFreak's report that DiMENSION and LOL (an ETTV offshoot) “competed to premiere the title first this morning.”

Both groups are members of the so-called Warez scene, an underground coalition of loosely affiliated groups that compete to leak titles. Who is involved in each group and how they have access to the files they leak are closely guarded secrets, but mission statements on various websites make it clear many are motivated by the thrill of the race.

“Keep in mind we do all this because we can and because we like the thrilling excitement of winning over the other competing groups,” the game cracking group Skidrow wrote recently. “We absolutely don’t do all these releases to please the general user that rather wants to spend their cash on updating to the latest hardware, and sees the scene releases as a source to play all these games for free.”