Most-Pirated Movies, TV-Shows and Games Per State… Debunked

Opinion

A series of interesting piracy maps are making headlines this week. According to the data, "Cuban Fury" is the most downloaded film in Florida while "Awkward" beats Game of Thrones as most-shared TV-show in Texas. Amusing results, but are they accurate?

crosscatPiracy is a hot topic, so when there are statistics to report the media is usually all over it. This week a series of intriguing maps has been doing the rounds.

The data was first published by the piracy experts over at Movoto Real Estate. Based on a large sample of three million unique IP addresses collected over a period of 40 days they presented a map of the most torrented movies, TV-shows and games per state.

This was quickly picked up by The Washington Post, Venturebeat and several other publications, who all shared the findings with their readers. TorrentFreak was ready to jump on the bandwagon too, but we couldn’t help noticing a few odd results.

What stands out immediately is that some of the most-downloaded movies in certain states are barely downloaded at all through torrent sites. “La Grande Bellezza” in New Jersey, for example, or “Cuban Fury” in Florida. The same is true for “Witching and Bitching” which, according to the map, is very popular in Indiana and Tennessee.

Are these movies really more often downloaded than blockbuster successes such as Divergent and X-Men as the map below suggests?

Most pirated movies per state?

most-downloaded-movie

The same odd results appear in the games and TV-show maps. Game of Thrones is by far the most downloaded TV-show in America, but for some reason “Awkward” is more popular in Texas and Louisiana. The same Louisianans also download the game “Scribblenauts Unlimited” more frequently than popular releases such as Minecraft and Watch Dogs.

Something is clearly amiss, so we took the unprecedented step of downloading the source data which is readily available.

To our surprise, the maps in question don’t represent the most-downloaded titles. Instead, they appear to reveal for which shows the download numbers differ the most when compared to the national average. This is completely unrelated to which movie, TV-show or game was downloaded the most.

Whoops, not downloads

variation

Now back to our earlier question. Is “La Grande Bellezza” really that popular in New Jersey? No, the actual data shows only 2 downloads in this state…

Similarly, is “Awkward” the most pirated TV-show in Texas? Again, no, it has 232 downloads in the dataset compared to 2,554 for a single Game of Thrones episode. And we can go on and on.

In fact, if we made a real map based on the actual download counts in the dataset, Game of Thrones would be the most downloaded show in each and every state, as expected.

Confusingly, however, a map of the most pirated movies per state would list “Blood Widow” on top in pretty much every state.

This suggests that there’s an issue with the data itself too, as this movie is nowhere to be found in the list of most shared files on The Pirate Bay and elsewhere. The most likely explanation is that the researchers ran into a fake torrent file with bogus IP-addresses.

Whatever the case, it’s safe to say that the maps in question should be taken with a grain of salt, or a barrel of rum perhaps.

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