bittorrent

'Game of Thrones' slays 'Breaking Bad' as most-pirated TV show of 2013

Dec. 27, 2013 at 12:32 PM ET

IMAGE: Actor Peter Dinklage of 'Game of Thrones'
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
Actor Peter Dinklage of 'Game of Thrones' won poses in the press room after winning outstanding supporting actor in a drama series 2011 during the 63rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

Walter White might be the one who knocks, but "Game of Thrones" came out on top in 2013, at least when it came to illegal downloads.

For the second year in a row, the HBO show dominated TorrentFreak's list of the most-pirated TV shows of the year. Season 3's finale was downloaded 5.9 million times on BitTorrent, a program that supports peer-to-peer file-sharing. 

That is even better than last year, when the HBO show topped the list with 4.28 million downloads. It's also more than the 5.5 million people who watched the episode when it initially aired. 

AMC hits "Breaking Bad" and "The Walking Dead" rounded out the top three, with 4.2 million and 3.6 million downloads, respectively. Both of those shows are available on streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, unlike "Game of Thrones," which is only available to stream using HBO GO — a service that requires an HBO subscription. 

These numbers only reflect how many times the shows were downloaded with BitTorrent. That means that the true number of illegal downloads is probably much higher. Factor in illegal streaming sites and you have a big piracy problem that only seems to be growing.

Of course, Jeff Bewkes, CEO of Time Warner Inc., which owns HBO, might not be too concerned. On an earnings conference call this summer, he claimed that being the most-pirated TV show was "better than an Emmy" because it led to more buzz and ultimately more subscriptions. 

Here is the complete list of the top 10 most-pirated shows of 2013:

  1. Game of Thrones, 5.9 million
  2. Breaking Bad, 4.2 million
  3. The Walking Dead, 3.6 million
  4. The Big Bang Theory, 3.4 million
  5. Dexter, 3.1 million
  6. How I Met Your Mother, 3 million
  7. Suits, 2.6 million
  8. Homeland, 2.4 million
  9. Vikings, 2.3 million
  10. Arrow, 2.2 million

Keith Wagstaff writes about technology for NBC News. He previously covered technology for TIME's Techland and wrote about politics as a staff writer at TheWeek.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @kwagstaff and reach him by email at: Keith.Wagstaff@nbcuni.com

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