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Piracy Gave ‘Game Of Thrones’ Its Cult Status, So Why The Fuss?

It’s time we exonerated piracy from its wrongful convictions.

07/08/2017 8:55 AM IST | Updated 07/08/2017 11:55 AM IST
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This morning, as I was heading to work, I saw a huge billboard that read 'Torrents Morghulis' (Torrents Must Die). I must admit, being a copywriter, the strong cultural association in the copy hallmarked in the infamous Game of Thrones font, combined with a smear of blood, made me ponder on the devious wonder of the message.

My adoration for the creative aside, I have got to raise my voice and call spade a spade. While the saviours of our media and entertainment maestros and corporations have vowed to behead piracy or manufacture seedicides that can kill it in the womb, piracy has time and again proved itself to be a real fighter. And for a damn good reason. While we are at liberty to engage in a pompous fist fight against piracy, we know it's a farce, like the WWE—unless the moral fighters start concealing knuckle busters in their gloves.

'Game of Thrones', which has been setting the record since 2012 for being the "most downloaded pirated content", is not threatened by piracy. If anything, it has benefited from it.

If ignorance is bliss, then arrogance is India's death kiss. India might have free wifi hotspots in a few blessed cities, but when it comes to average 4G data speed, at 5.14Mbps we are left in the dust by even Pakistan with its 11.71Mbps (for the record, the global gold medal is held by South Korea with a jaw-dropping 40Mbps).

Despite the brutal shortcomings, for the last two years, local as well as international over-the-top (OTT) content aggregators and creators have been setting their own pants on fire in a bid to disrupt the ripe market in India for on-demand and streaming viewing.

For far too long, until VCR, DVD and torrents happened, India was held hostage to appointment viewing, completely at the mercy of cable channels forcing you to watch your favourite shows and licensed blockbusters at time slots allotted by them.

When I learnt what Torrent was from my brother, who is six years younger than me, I thought it was the best gift that any person of any age and any gender could have. Forget mainstream movies. With torrent, I had access to content that I otherwise would never even have chanced upon.

What Hotstar, Netflix, Amazon and others like them in India do understand but act like they don't (since they can't afford to), is that their million dollar marketing efforts in containing piracy will never really come into full force, like ever.

These digital businesses are not as interested in "combating" piracy of the content, as they are in protecting their profits.

Last year, the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) set up a special committee to fight online piracy, which had companies like Hotstar, SET India, Eros, Netflix, Radio Mirchi, Viacom 18, and others participate to (in the words of the committee's mandate) "safeguard the interest of the digital entertainment businesses."

So, there you go. These digital businesses are not as interested in "combating" piracy of the content, as they are in protecting their profits. On the flip side, their fight against piracy is fair if the channel is also the producer of the show, like Netflix, which had 30 original series by the end of 2016. Then again, Game of Thrones, which has been setting the record every year since 2012 for being the "most downloaded pirated content", is not threatened by piracy. If anything, it has benefited from it.

David Petrarca, who directed two episodes in the epic, felt that piracy helped spread the "cultural buzz" of Game of Thrones. The conviction is even backed by Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner, which owns HBO, who said, "...it all leads to more penetration, more paying subs, more health for HBO, less reliance on having to do with paid advertising."

It is safe to say that piracy does not really make an impact on a show's ratings or the monies it is expected to earn. The ones it does have an impact on, are the ones that aren't capable of earning any profits, anyway. Nothing wrong applying the philosophy of "survival of the fittest" here.

If you are joining in the chant of "Torrents Morghulis", then you might as well say'Game of Thrones' Morghulis."

Last season, GoT had an average of 25.7 million viewers per episode, and it cost the producers between $6 and $10 million to make an episode (very modest considering the cast, costumes, hundreds of extras, and exotic locations, especially when you compare it with another successful show like Friends, which cost $10 million/episode). As the show came without ads, HBO made its money through subscriptions. So if it took about $100 million to make a season, the producers were earning roughly $400 million in return through subscriptions and affiliated show memorabilia.

It's time we exonerated piracy from its wrongful convictions.

Let's say you heard a song (which your friend had not paid for) for the first time at your friend's place. Took to it instantly. You googled the song, went to the artist's Facebook page and liked it. You later went to the office, blasted the song and the other ones from the same artist. One year later, you heard that the artist was going to perform in your city, and you went. Not only did you go, but you also made sure your friends and colleagues went with you.

Wanting to be untouched by piracy is like expecting to live a life without bacteria. There is no life without bacteria and there is no bacteria without life. Piracy helps us help artists fulfil their dream — which is to reach the maximum audience. It's an artist's honour to have his art be seen, heard, watched, and cherished by as many people as possible. Piracy not only gives us access to them but expands their reach.

Game of Thrones is what it is today, because of torrents. The majority of people in this country got acquainted with the show through torrents and free streaming services. You can deny it, but it won't stop being the truth. Therefore, if you are joining in the chant of "Torrents Morghulis", then you might as well say "Game of Thrones Morghulis."

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