Last Sunday, the long-awaited seventh season of the hit series Game of Thrones aired in dozens of countries worldwide.
The show has broken several piracy records over the years and, thus far, there has been plenty of interest in the latest season as well.
Like every year, the torrent download figures quickly ran into the millions. However, little is known about the traffic that goes to streaming portals, which have outgrown traditional file-sharing sites in recent years.
One of the main problems is that it’s impossible for outsiders to know exactly how many visitors pirate streaming services get. Traffic data for these sites are not public, which makes it difficult to put an exact figure on the number of views one particular video has.
Piracy monitoring firm MUSO hasn’t shied away from this unexplored territory though and has now released some hard numbers.
According to MUSO, the premiere episode of the seventh season of Game of Thrones has been pirated more than 90 million times in only three days. A massive number, which is largely driven by streaming traffic.
Exactly 77,913,032 pirate views came from streaming portals, while public torrent traffic sits in second place with 8,356,382 downloads. Another 4,949,298 downloads are linked to direct download sites, while the remaining 523,109 come from private torrents.
Why other platforms such as Usenet are not covered remains unexplained in the press release, but without these the total is already quite substantial, to say the least.
MUSO reports that most pirate traffic comes from the United States, with 15.1 million unauthorized downloads and streams. The United Kingdom follows in second place with 6.2 million, before Germany, India, and Indonesia, with between 4 and 5 million each.
Andy Chatterley, MUSO’s CEO and Co-Founder, notes that the results may come as a surprise to some industry insiders, describing them as “huge.”
“There is no denying that these figures are huge, so they’re likely to raise more than a few eyebrows in the mainstream industry, but it’s in line with the sort of scale we see across piracy sites and should be looked at objectively.
“What we’re seeing here isn’t just P2P torrent downloads but unauthorized streams and every type of piracy around the premiere. This is the total audience picture, which is usually unreported,” Chatterley adds.
While there is no denying that the numbers are indeed huge, it would probably be better to view them as estimates. MUSO generally sources its data from SimilarWeb, which uses a sample of 200 million ‘devices’ to estimate website traffic. Website visits are then seen as “downloads,” and the sample data is extrapolated into the totals.
This also explains why other types of download traffic, such as Usenet, are not included at all. These are not web-based. Similarly, the data doesn’t appear to cover all countries. Game of Thrones piracy is very substantial in China, for example, but in its previous reports, MUSO didn’t exclude Chinese traffic.
Taking the caveats above into account, MUSO’s data could be a good estimate of the total (web) pirate traffic for the Game of Thrones premiere. This would suggest some pretty high piracy rates in some countries, but we’ve seen stranger things.
Note: TorrentFreak reached out to MUSO for further details on its methodology. The company confirmed that its data is based on traffic to 23,000 of the most-used piracy sites. The data is collected from over 200 million devices, located in over 200 countries. This appears to confirm that it is indeed SimilarWeb data.
Update: MUSO clarified that they indeed use Similarweb as their data source. Chinese streaming traffic is not included. The company also tracks actual BitTorrent traffic, but only from public trackers. This data does include Chinese traffic.
Countries with the highest GoT piracy activity, according to MUSO:
United States of America: 15,075,951
United Kingdom: 6,252,903
Russian Federation: 2,196,799