The arguments over piracy are never-ending. From the legality to the methods, people will continue to argue over downloading copyrighted content till winter comes (and then some). The debate just got a boost recently, when news started making the rounds singling out Game of Thrones as the most-pirated show this year. In fact, the April 30th episode received 2.5 million downloads in the first day it was up. Erik Kain called out HBO themselves, saying “they have only themselves to blame.” In addition, HBO co-president Eric Kessler’s quote from November has been brought back up, where he stated that “cord-cutting” is a fad and that customers will flock back to cable once the economy settles.
This, at first, seems to demonstrate a complete lack of touch with the world on Kessler’s part. Who hasn’t seen the huge amount of customers flocking to streaming services? Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and even smaller niche services like Crunchyroll are growing in the landscape of content delivery. Streaming is certainly going to be here to stay (until something better comes along, anyway). But Kessler probably cannot say anything else – not publicly anyway. Why would he want to send his biggest supporters (the cable companies) the message HBO might hop on this new-fangled internet thing? Well, they already have, in a way.
HBO Go, while a solid service, still requires a cable subscription – and it’s up for being blocked depending on which internet and cable service provider combination you’re using. Basically, they’re making it incredibly difficult for customers to use their product unless they have the exact circumstances. There’s an excellent quote from Valve CEO Gabe Newell in regards to this whole issue: “Piracy is almost always a service problem.” If you offer a service better than piracy, 99% of the time people will give you money. I know I’d pay for an HBO streaming service, especially if I can watch it on any or most of my devices.
In the end, these piracy numbers show one thing, to me: these are people who want Game of Thrones. HBO could be making a killing serving up Game of Thrones to all these downloaders, but the legal red tape and money involved with keeping HBO content within cable provider’s fenced-in garden will prevent that from happening in the near future. To move forward we need to realize people can already get their content fast and for free, thanks to the internet. But paid services can beat that: just look at Valve and their success with Steam, or Netflix’s excellent service. What companies like HBO need to do is realize that piraters aren’t lost sales – they’re potential customers.