Simulcasting Game of Thrones is one in the eye for piracy

Simulcast is one in the eye for piracy
Game of Thrones - heavily pirated but at the forefront of a new global strategy

It would be a foolhardy commentator to suggest that digital piracy is on the wane, but the brave new world of streaming and on demand is, at the very least, providing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

A few years ago, if people outside of the US wanted to watch a must-see new series they had two options - wait the months until the deals had been struck, the i's dotted and t's crossed by the various rights holders and channels, or head for the torrent wastelands.

In the UK, Sky's deal with HBO to screen Game of Thrones - alongside The Walking Dead and Downton Abbey, perhaps one of the most buzzworthy shows on the planet - has taken an interesting turn for the future.

British viewers can either wait until the next day's prime television slot to view the show a matter of hours after its first run in the US, or stay up until an ungodly hour to watch it at exactly the same time as their US counterparts.

This is called simulcasting, and Sky is by no means the first company to offer up the facility; but its decision to air GoT in this way is the latest indication that television companies have taken on board the digital cock-ups of the music industry and got with the zeitgeist.

A single step

Don't get me wrong - Game of Thrones is, and will probably remain, the most pirated show around.

For every rabid fan prepared to stay up until the early hours of the morning for the somewhat dubious pleasure of being the first to know what happens there are a myriad more who are just as rabidly unprepared to pay for the pleasure of doing so when they can break the law with a few mouse clicks and get the same show.

But I've long held that the vast majority of us are prepared to pay for the stuff we love and value, and things like simulcast stop those who are so keen to be up to date from seeking alternative illegal measure of doing so.

Essentially the people who make the televisions shows we know and love appear to have come to a conclusion that, I hope, will eventually stand them in good stead. namely that they need to shift the risk and reward line.

Home of Thrones

Sky pushing its Home of Thrones campaign at the UK premiere

Is it worth the risk of downloading, the time it takes, the bandwidth and the fear of a threatening letter dropping on your door mat when the program is likely to be available risk-free and, these days, generally as part of a package deal which makes it attainably cheap?

Even those people who eschew Sky's subscription and don't get the Atlantic channel, have the option of considering a Now TV subscription which will give them access to much of the same content or to wait and see if it pops up on one of the streaming services.

Why does piracy matter? It's an old and obvious argument, but TV companies benefit from greater revenue in sales and more ad money, and we should benefit from bigger budgets and more risk-taking from those companies as they make the next wave of TV shows.

Ask any group of people who have pirated a show why they felt the need to do so and a decent sized percentage of them will tell you it's because they didn't want to wait.

When that argument is taken (at least partially) off the table, even if I can't pay or don't want to pay remain, it's another one in the eyepatch for those content pirates.

And for those of us who do want to watch the biggest shows, regardless of where they are made, early enough that the best bits aren't spoilt then airing programmes at worst within a few days is enough to keep us away from the torrent sites.

  • On a lighter note: we wondered what phone each Westeros character would use in our Game of Phones
Patrick Goss

Patrick Goss is the ex-Editor in Chief of TechRadar. Patrick was a passionate and experienced journalist, and he has been lucky enough to work on some of the finest online properties on the planet, building audiences everywhere and establishing himself at the forefront of digital content.  After a long stint as the boss at TechRadar, Patrick has now moved on to a role with Apple, where he is the Managing Editor for the App Store in the UK.