HBO Has A Refreshingly Progressive View On Game Of Thrones Piracy

People love HBO's Game of Thrones, if it's popularity on torrent sites and bulletin boards is anything to go by. We've heard author George R R Martin's opinion on the issue, but what does HBO, the channel producing the TV interpretation, think of the situation?

Entertainment Weekly over in the States caught up with Michael Lombardo, HBO's programming president and quizzed him on the network's opinion of Game of Thrones' popularity beyond conventional channels. Rather than seizing up or throwing out a passive-aggressive tirade, Lombardo talked about the good points of having such a highly pirated show:

"I probably shouldn't be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts," Lombardo said. "The demand is there. And it certainly didn't negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network."

The article goes on to mention that Game of Thrones is killing it for the network, thanks to international deals and said DVD sales.

It turns out Lambardo is more concerned about the quality of pirated versions, stating that the series' huge production values might not come across as well compared to the original. That said, piracy isn't something it turns a blind eye to, but it definitely has a more mellow approach than other organisations:

"We obviously are a subscription service so as a general proposition so we try to stop piracy when we see it happen, particularly on a systematic basis when people are selling pirated versions," he said. But he also added, perhaps referring to casual individual-user downloading, "No, we haven't sent out the Game of Thrones police."

[Entertainment Weekly]

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    Refreshingly insightful - more tv/movie execs need to take this point of view. Love that he's more concerned about the quality of pirated stuff rather than trying to police it (except for going after those who are profiteering from it - which is totally fine by me).

      This is how I feel. Go after the guys burning hundreds of copies on to physical disks and making profit out of it before you go for the people downloading and watching it free for their own entertainment.

    I'd happily pay for streaming access to HBO and BBC.

    finally somebody sees the good that can come from piracy

      What? All he is saying is that it hasn't hurt the product overall. There is not a word to suggest he thinks anything good comes from it. And it is easy to be blase about it when he has no financial stake in it. I bet if he was shareholder his view would be different.

      Last edited 02/04/13 1:20 pm

        If piracy was impossible, I would never have been introduced to the series, and I would never have bought their DVDs, or George RR Martin's books. And I didn't pirate them myself, I wouldn't have even gone out of my way to do it. What happened was that one of my friends told me it was cool, I didn't really care, but he had it downloaded on a flash drive so I thought "why not?".

        So thanks to piracy they have my money, probably about 110 dollars to HBO and around 150 to George RR Martin. In addition I've been introduced to an incredible series that I enjoy to no end.

        So, while piracy isn't a wholly good thing, it is not without benefits. To both the consumer and the producer.

          Regardless, Lombardo was not saying that piracy is a good thing.

          I dunno about that. Maybe the FTA networks would have picked it up if they thought it hadn't already been pirated to death? Had that occurred, the series would have a much higher public profile. Why else has drama become an afterthought on Australian FTA TV if not because of piracy?

        he didn't have to
        “The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales"

          That is a display of ambivalence, there is nothing positive in it at all. Of course, he has no idea what effect it has had on DVD sales because he has no way of knowing what they might have been without piracy.

    I've downloaded the first two seasons as soon as they aired in America and I've bought the first two seasons on Blu-ray.

      I watched the first two episodes on DVD, lost interest and gave the DVDs back to the person I'd borrowed them from.

    I downloaded the seasons in 720p, I also bought the Blu-ray and will never take them out of the plastic wrap.

    I'm waiting for the day when a network launches a Kickstarter-esque campaign where they won't make a season until it is fully funded. You can pre-order your Blu-Ray/digital download before they even start filming. Though I'd imagine they'd have to release the first season free, so that everyone is hooked. It might work though. As Amanda Palmer (Dresden Dolls) said in her recent TED Talk, why don't we stop trying to figure out how to MAKE people pay for content, and start figuring out how to LET them pay for content.

    I only bought the Firefly DVDs because I'd seen the series in the correct order, on my own terms (not with bullshit shifting timeslots and annoying ads), via an infringing copy. Same is true of other shows, many of which I've not even watched the DVDs - I just liked them enough to want to buy a high-quality copy.

    I've spent hundreds of dollars more on music, movies and TV than I would have if I hadn't been able to sample them for free via copyright infringement. If I hadn't gained that exposure, I would have never been a customer. This is not a justification for copyright infringement, it's just a fact.

    No doubt there are ways to make this exposure happen without copyright infringement, and I welcome any attempts by content producers to make this happen. Personally I like the idea of making a web-series (e.g. "Mortal Kombat Legacy" or "BSG: Blood and Chrome" or "H+") to gauge the popularity of an idea, then getting a full-blown TV series crowdfunded (through Kickstarter, say), produced and placed in regular TV programming. That way, backers get a copy of the show; producers get funding ahead of production; TV channels get an idea of how popular a show will be before it even airs; and they get a certain level of quality content to display and sell ads around. win-win-win-win!

      Plus there's the incidental income: have your web-series run on YouTube and there's always a bit of ad revenue, just in case it's not popular enough to justify a full production.

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