Will you pay for ‘Game of Thrones’? Or steal it?

Jacob Judd, Staff Member

Who doesn’t love “Game of Thrones”? It has everything! Action, romance, politics, war, great acting, expensive sets and gorgeous costumes; the list goes on. The show is a worldwide cultural phenomenon. It’s HBO’s most popular series ever. 9.3 million people watched the last season’s finale the night it aired. But that’s not the only impressive number the show pulls in.

In 2012, 2013 and 2014 “Game of Thrones” was the most pirated television series on the planet. By year’s end, the series had racked up over 48 million illegal downloads. The most recent season finale broke an all-time piracy record, with over a quarter of a million people sharing a single file at the same time.

I personally know many people who are guilty of this particular act. When questioned about this a common excuse often comes up: “Cable companies are awful over-priced monopolies, and I’m not willing to participate in that kind of highway robbery.” And HBO has historically been so entrenched with the cable companies that they leave the consumer no option. “If they had a service like Netflix,” these people say, “I could see myself paying for that.”

This logic is understandable. Cable is overpriced, with lousy customer service. And up until now, HBO has been slow to adjust to a world where more and more people are cutting the cord entirely in favor of streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu. HBO’s own streaming app (while high quality) still requires a cable subscription to activate.

Ultimately though, regardless of how you may view those selling the product, entertainment is not medicine, or food, or shelter. You aren’t entitled to it. It’s not your right. It’s a luxury, and if you want to enjoy it there’s no reason you shouldn’t have to pay for it.

Enter HBO Now. A new streaming service requiring only a credit card and an internet connection. It was up and running shortly before the “Game of Thrones” season five premiere. What’s the catch? It’s nearly twice the monthly price of Netflix and Hulu, and for a relatively brief 3-month window it’ll be exclusive to Apple products.

But even with these caveats, the service is a sign that HBO is listening to its consumer base and trying to adjust its service to a changing world.

The arts cannot support themselves on goodwill alone. The creative team might say they’d rather you watch and not pay than not watch at all, but the fact remains that a less profitable studio is a more risk-averse studio. Incidentally, HBO’s groundbreaking, and critically acclaimed gay dramedy “Looking” was recently cancelled after two seasons.

Please understand, I’m not saying that pirating “Game of Thrones” makes you a bad person, or that buying HBO Now makes you a good person. But I encourage people to consider the larger consequences of their actions. More importantly, support the art you find valuable. And hey, if you’re someone who’s bemoaned HBO’s allegiance to big cable in the past, maybe consider putting your money where your dirty-pirate-mouth is.