The final season of Game of Thrones is proving the most popular yet – both for people watching it legally and illegally.
Millions of fans of the hit show tuned in around the world for the first episode of season 8, with 3.39 million people in the UK watching it on Sky Atlantic the day it aired.
A further 17.4 million in the US watched episode one on HBO in the first 24 hours after its release, making it the most-watched Game of Thrones episode of all time.
However both these figures are dwarfed by the number of people who turned to pirated streams and torrents to watch the show for free.
Digital piracy authority MUSO tracked 54 million piracy visits of the first episode of Season 8 in just the first 24 hours after its launch.
These figures were likely boosted by the ease at which piracy websites can be found through search engines and social media platforms, as well as streaming and torrenting forums in popular websites like Reddit.
Streaming proved to be the most popular method of illicit viewing, accounting for 76.6 per cent of the pirated views, with downloads making up 12.2 per cent and public torrents making up 10.8 per cent.
"Perhaps unsurprisingly, the relentless, global demand for access to HBO's Game of Thrones, through both legitimate and illegitimate channels, is still absolutely staggering," said MUSO CEO Andy Chatterley.
"Season 8 has been long-anticipated by fans around the world, leading to what can only be described as piracy mania as dedicated fans look for streams and torrents, whether that be a result of the content not being available in their region, wanting to get in on the action early through fear of missing out, or to avoid seeing spoilers on social media."
The frenzy surrounding Season 8's premiere was fuelled by episode one being leaked several hours ahead of its official airing, Mr Chatterley said, leading to people around the world searching for torrent and streaming sites.
Such demand for illegal streaming and torrenting sites comes despite a considerable global effort to crack down on piracy in recent years.
"This data shows that consumers are still being driven to unlicensed sources to find content," he said.
"It's imperative that rights holders understand that piracy audiences are some of their most dedicated fans, which, above all else, presents a vast commercial opportunity."
Episode 2 of season 8 of Game of Thrones is set to air on HBO at 9am EST on 21 April on HBO, while viewers in the UK will be able to watch it at the same time on Sky Atlantic or through NowTV.
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