IDEAS

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Winter is Coming

HBO has entered a pitched battle with viewers of Game of Thrones over how they get access to their fix of sex and swordplay. The hotly anticipated Season 5 premier attracted thirteen million illegal downloads worldwide, including Canada, where an astonishing 19% of viewers pirated the show. Customers in countries with no access to the Web-only HBO GO service available in the US have to pay for a full cable TV package to watch legitimately, so they’re resorting to file-sharing technologies to watch for free.

Back in 2013, HBO parent Time Warner’s CEO declared the endorsement of online TV pirates was "better than an Emmy." Two years later, his company is sending those pirates letters ordering them to stop. Twenty-first century viewers expect to download (and pay for) only what they want. Turning pirates into paying customers is a skill every content provider needs to master. Will HBO learn its lesson? If not, the company will need to get ready for a long winter.

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