Most pirated TV shows of 2012: Game of Thrones earns new accolade

Based on its weekly compilation of the the most downloaded content on BitTorrent, TorrentFreak is helping us get into the end-of-the-year spirit with its report on the most-pirated TV shows of 2012.

HBO's Game of Thrones is set to take home the nefarious trophy, boasting 4,280,000 downloads for a single episode en route to becoming 2012's most downloaded programme. Last year's winner and this year's number two, Dexter, snagged 3,850,000 downloads for its most pirated episode in 2012.

Particularly worrying for copyright holders is the estimation that illegal consumption of Game of Thrones actually exceeds the number of legal views - in the US, the figure for above-board viewing is thought to stand at 4,200,000.

However, more than 80 per cent of television piracy is thought to occur outside of the US, presumably due to the lack of availability of many popular shows via legal means, especially those produced by premium channels like HBO and Showtime.

"Over the years the number of TV-show downloads on BitTorrent has leveled [sic] off a bit, but this year we saw a small increase again," TorrentFreak said in a blog post.

"For chart leader Game of Thrones this is no different. Airing delays and HBO's choice not to make it widely available online are two of the top reasons why so many people pirate the show," the torrent-tracking site said.

Based on single-episode downloads, shows aired by US networks, such as The Big Bang Theory - which landed in the third spot - filled out the top 10 on TorrentFreak's list.

How I Met Your Mother landed in fourth place, ahead of the critically-acclaimed Breaking Bad, and The Walking Dead. Meanwhile, Homeland fans don't always have access to Showtime, so instead, thousands of people downloaded episodes of the show's first two seasons.

Rounding out the top 10 list of most-pirated TV shows in 2012 were House, which recently ended its eight-season run on Fox, plus sci-fi thrillers Fringe and Revolution, each topping 2.1 million downloads this year.

TorrentFreak's data is collected from several sources, including reports from all public BitTorrent trackers.

Heading in to 2013, US law enforcement agencies are looking at various ways of combating online piracy - the Center for Copyright Information is expected to implement its new Copyright Alert System in early-2013, after the scheme's original rollout was delayed by Hurricane Sandy.