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Game of Thrones continues to break piracy records despite HBO's best efforts

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

HBO's Game of Thrones continues to be one of the most pirated shows on television, setting a new record with its latest episode, reports Variety.

"Kill the Boy," the fifth episode of Game of Thrones' fifth season, first aired in the U.S. last night from 9-10 p.m. ET. Pirated copies of the episode were downloaded more than 2.2 million times by 10 a.m. ET today — within 12 hours of the end of the episode, according to piracy tracking firm Excipio. Game of Thrones also held the previous record: Its season-four premiere was pirated 1.86 million times within 24 hours of its airing.

This followed an online leak of the first four episodes of season five, apparently from early screeners given out by HBO, before the season premiere even aired on the night of April 12.

HBO also launched HBO Now the week before Game of Thrones' season-five premiere. The $14.99-a-month streaming service unbundles HBO access from a pay-TV package. HBO Now is partly an effort to attract cord-cutters (people who canceled an existing cable or satellite subscription) or so-called cord-nevers (people who never subscribed in the first place) — many of whom had been asking HBO for years to launch such a service.

The network took another step to combat piracy specifically for Game of Thrones, a show that has topped "most pirated" lists for quite some time now. HBO announced in March that it would air the show's entire fifth season simultaneously in more than 170 countries. It was a smart move for HBO — not only so viewers in different time zones wouldn't have the show spoiled for them, but also so they wouldn't feel the need to torrent the show before an episode aired in their locality.

It's unclear what else HBO could do, short of putting Game of Thrones online for free. Pirates gonna pirate, it seems.