Game Of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on HBO, but it’s also become the most-pirated series around the world. In an interview with Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher Wednesday evening, Game Of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin lamented the rampant amount of piracy that the show faces, particularly in international markets. (Full video can be watched here.) But the author of the popular fantasy series, who is in the process of writing the series’ sixth book, said the distribution strategy for TV series is quickly changing.
The interview was arranged as part of a series of screenings HBO is having for Game Of Thrones, this time in San Francisco. The cable network is taking a group of cast members and series creators on a tour of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle to appeal to tech-savvy audiences who love the show. Of course, being tech savvy also could mean knowing how to pirate the series, something that Martin acknowledges plenty of people are doing.
“We do have to contend with the fact that our show is the most-pirated show in the world… I think a lot of it coming from Australia,” he said. For whatever reason, Australia seems to be a hotbed of piracy for the show, Martin said, attributing it to the window between when the show appears on TV in the U.S. and when it is licensed for airing in other international markets.
Martin estimated that there was a six month lag-time between U.S. broadcast and appearing in Australia, but a representative from HBO tells me that last season there was a ten-day delay between the two. This season, the delay will be much shorter, as the Season 3 premiere will appear on Foxtel in Australia on April 1st, just hours after the U.S. airing.
But as in the case of Australia, Martin sees the windows narrowing over time, due to a highly connected international market for content. “I think we’re moving toward a thing where there will be no more delays. It used to be, you’d make a show in America, and the producer or studio or whoever’s responsible for it sells it into foreign markets and each foreign broadcaster puts it on six months later, six years later, whenever they feel like putting it on. That’s gone now, it’s becoming a global type of thing and our show is now airing pretty much all around the world… the same day it airs in the United States, or a day later.”
Overall, the changing international strategy is part of a bigger change in how content is delivered. “We’re in the middle of a huge period of change in the entire entertainment industry, and television and film and even books, and how these products are delivered,” Martin said.
While a reduced window for international release should reduce piracy from international markets, it doesn’t do a lot to stop people who don’t subscribe to HBO from downloading the content for free. Since HBO is a premium cable channel, its series are prime targets for pirates who don’t pay for cable — let alone the additional $10 or $15 a month that is required to subscribe.
And what about that sixth book? When can we expect it?
“It’s not done yet… it’s not going to be done next week. I’m going to have to work on it. It’s going to be another giant 1,500-page book, but I’m making progress,” Martin said. “I’ve given up predicting when these things are going to be done, because when I do, I end up being wrong. And then everybody gets all upset.”
In the meantime, there are several more seasons to tackle the existing books. Season 3 is like, just the start of that.
Oh yeah and look, dragons!