If you live in a town with a good bar or brewery, it's likely that come 9pm on Sunday, it's packed with people gearing up for the new episode of Game of Thrones.
Public viewing parties of popular shows have taken off in recent years – people sharing beers and tears over shows like Games of Thrones, Breaking Bad, and more. It's the communal viewing experience that leads to incredible moments like this, an entire bar watching the Mountain v. The Viper scene from Game of Thrones:
Gee, looks fun. HBO wants to murder than fun.
It looks like HBO is now going after bars that hold these live screening parties. The NY Daily News reports that one Williamsburg bar, Videology, was recently sent a cease and desist letter – which the owner described as “a very polite but official letter asking us to stop showing it."
They plan to comply with HBO's polite request, because yeah it's their content but come on, man.
“As a pay subscription service, HBO should not be made available in public establishments,” said HBO in a statement. “When it does happen, it is of particular concern when there is an attempt to profit off the programming. We have taken such actions for well over a decade.”
It appears HBO is frustrated over the fact that someone leaked a screener of the first four episodes of the new season of Game of Thrones, and it's taking it out on some truly puzzling targets. This cease and desist order to a New York bar was preceded by legal action against Periscope, Twitter's live broadcasting app. The company sent takedown notices, following reports that users were live-streaming the season five premiere of Game of Thrones for their followers to see.
Of course, there are a couple of things peculiar about this. For one, Periscope streams vanish after 24 hours – they aren't permanent videos like, let's say, YouTube videos. So essentially, HBO is fighting ghosts.
Also, you can't believe that HBO really considers Periscope a piracy threat. How many Game of Thrones fans do you know who would suffer through watching the show via a low-quality live-stream on Twitter? As in someone recording their TV screen? It makes no sense.
HBO has always had a complicated relationship with piracy. Until the release of HBO NOW, the company's new standalone streaming app (no cable subscription required), the only way to get HBO content outside of a cable subscription was to steal someone's HBO GO password or simply download it. Game of Thrones has sat atop the Iron Throne of piracy for years.
But HBO execs have said some interesting things about piracy and password sharing over the years.
In 2013, a GoT director said that piracy doesn’t matter to the overall success of the show and that shows like Game of Thrones survive on cultural buzz. He later backtracked.
A few months later, HBO programming head Michael Lombardo referred to the rampant Game of Thrones piracy as a “compliment of sorts.”
“I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” Lombardo said. “The demand is there. And it certainly didn’t negatively impact the DVD sales. [Piracy is] something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”
Last year, HBO CEO Richard Pleper said sharing HBO GO passwords helps them "build addicts."
“To us, in many ways, it’s a terrific marketing vehicle for the next generation of viewers and it is actually not material at all to our business,” said Plepler.
“It’s not that we’re ignoring it, and we’re looking at different ways to affect password sharing, I’m simply telling you that it’s not a fundamental problem, and the externality of it – it presents the brand to more and more people and gives them the opportunity to hopefully become addicted to it. What we’re in the business of doing it building addicts – building video addicts. And the way we do that is by exposing our product, and our shows, and our brand to more and more people.”
Facing stiff competition from streaming-only services like Netflix, HBO courted cordcutters with the new, cable-free HBO NOW option. But its coming out party was marred by the massive episode leak, and it looks like HBO is pissed.
Even though the leak did nothing to stop the season premiere of Game of Thrones from setting an all-time viewing record.
Image via GameofThrones, YouTube