Ratings were high for Game of Thrones on Sunday night — the highest they've ever been, in fact — but an even bigger audience was watching illegally.
Of those 55 million pirated views, MUSO told The Verge that the vast majority came from unofficial streams of the episode, with web downloads accounting for 12.2 percent of views, public torrents for 10.8 percent and private torrents for 0.5 percent.
To put that 55 million figure in perspective, HBO saw a total of 17.4 million viewers across all three of its platforms (the cable channel and its two internet streaming services), split between 11.8 million for the traditional TV channel and 5.6 million on the company's official internet streams.
Those numbers will most likely go up as more viewers watch the episode, but the same could be said for the pirated views.
The most pirated views by country came from India (roughly 10 percent), according to MUSO's data, which the company speculates is due to the difficulty of accessing the show there. The country with the second-most pirated views was China, with roughly 5 million, which only airs a censored version through official state channels.
Even the United States, which has perhaps the easiest legal access to HBO, came in third place with nearly 4 million illegal views, which points to a pretty obvious conclusion that people just don't want to pay for HBO.
The anticipation for the fantasy epic series will likely only grow as the season approaches its sixth and final episode. The marketing push over the past several months resulted in the season 8 premiere as the "biggest telecast" in HBO's history and the most-watched scripted entertainment program of the year to this point, according to Entertainment Weekly. The previous owner of that title was The Big Bang Theory on CBS with 14.7 million viewers in February.
Game of Thrones surpassed its own previous record for the season 7 finale back in 2017 at 16.9 million, and also passed the season 7 premiere, which stood at 16.1 million.
What's more is that those numbers are without subscribers of Dish network, which has been in a dispute with HBO since November after a new carriage deal couldn't be agreed upon — forcing the cable network off Dish and its Sling TV platform. Dish even pointed customers toward HBO Now prior to Sunday's premiere, telling them sign up for the service separately.
Entertainment Weekly also notes that the finale of HBO's prestige drama The Sopranos drew 11.9 million viewers back in 2007, putting Game of Thrones' 17. 4 milllion in perspective.