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The Unintended Karmic Upside to the Massive Illegal Pirating of 'Game of Thrones'

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | April 8, 2014 |

By Dustin Rowles | Think Pieces | April 8, 2014 |

Many of you who rely on HBO GO to watch Game of Thrones experienced enormous frustration on Sunday night when the HBO servers crashed under the weight of all that traffic. That’s too bad, and I don’t want to qualify that by saying, “Well, you should’ve subscribed to HBO instead of bumming a password off of your buddy.” I understand why someone might prefer to borrow a password — and risk the buffering circle from hell — to paying to subscribe to HBO, because, as we all know, it’s not just $12 for a subscription. It’s $70 - $80 for a basic cable subscription, PLUS the $12 for HBO.

After the HBO GO server crashed, a lot of folks resorted to piracy. Rather than wait for the server to come back online and risk a glitchy viewing experience, they simply downloaded the episode after it finished airing, and with so many other people doing the same thing, the downloads were well seeded, and most folks got their episode in a matter of minutes. In fact, Game of Thrones broke piracy records on Sunday night as viewers sought to gain their King Joffrey fix as soon as possible.

This is unfortunate, of course, for HBO, and so is the fact that so many people watch the series with borrowed passwords. It’s an expensive series to produce, and I don’t like that HBO is not realizing the profit that the viewership for GoT should be bringing in. That sucks. On the other hand, I like to think that HBO is realizing some of that profit through merchandising, DVD sales, and the online buzz that the massive number of viewers generates, potentially leading to more future subscribers.

What I do appreciate, however, is that the entity that’s getting f**ked the most in this equation is actually the middle man: Your cable company. Not only do they have to serve up more broadband to those using HBO GO and torrents to access Game of Thrones, but they’re missing out on the $60 to $70 subscription that viewers would otherwise have to pay in order to gain the right to pay $12 a month for an HBO subscription.

I’m sure that HBO has some say in whether we’re able to gain a la carte access to HBO, or the ability to subscribe to a standalone HBO GO service, but the real pain in the ass in this scenario is our cable companies, which created a ridiculous system in which we’re forced to pay a large sum of money to gain the right to pay a smaller sum of money in order to watch one f***king series on one f***king channel that we all f**king love.

Cable companies are evil, and the Time Warner/Comcast merger that’s coming is going to eventually completely screw over the consumer, so while I do pay for cable and HBO, and while I don’t illegally download Game of Thrones, I do take some solace in the fact that no one is losing more money than Time Warner, Comcast, DirectTV, Cox, or the Dish Network.

It’s true that our cable provider choices are severely limited, which means that customer service is sh*tty, which means that we are put on hold for 30 minutes or an hour or more every time our cable goes out, only to have to wait a week for the cable guy to come out to our house in a very specific 12 hour window, in which we must stay at home and twiddle our thumbs. While I’d certainly appreciate Peter Dinklage getting a raise based on increased subscriber numbers to HBO, the fact that the cable companies are getting screwed out of a few million dollars by pirates doesn’t actually sit heavily on my mind. They’re the ones that set up the system to screw over the largest number of consumers possible, and now they’re reaping the consequences instead of taking their share of the $12 we would otherwise pay for HBO per month.

In short: Suck it Comcast! Karma is a bitch.

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.