I know, it's that time of the year again when everybody's talking about Game of Thrones. Six episodes into this current season now, and I have already purchased my own customized GoT shirt!
Don't you just love the above quote by Tyrion? :)
And like the past few years, we are seeing a tremendous number of downloads on torrent sites again.
However, the big difference is, this year, HBO is apparently cracking down on illegal torrents. According to this article on torrentfreak, thousands of the latest GoT torrents are being removed as HBO is asking ISPs to track down those IP addresses involved in sharing.
For those who are unaware, GoT was the top pirated TV show for both 2014 and 2015. And HBO more or less used to turn a blind eye to this overwhelming statistic.
The reason why HBO is now suddenly being so anti-piracy proactive is because they apparently want people to subscribe to their online streaming service HBONow where subscribers can watch the latest GoT episodes legally, for a small fee of course. And as one article mentioned, HBO is targeting only Americans who are downloading through torrent because after all, HBONow is available only in the US. So for the rest of the world, I guess it is still pretty much safe to continue with torrent.
Here's the thing about popular TV shows and piracy. Many of us aren't downloading the latest episodes from torrent just because they are free. People like us have no other option but to download from torrent sites because (a) The show is currently not available in our country, (b) The legal streaming options are also not available in our country, (c) Even if such shows run on our cable channels (like here in India for example), they are shown much much later. By then, everybody already knows all the spoilers. (d) And even if the option to watch episodes online legally are available, many of us have bad internet connection and cannot watch it via streaming. Last but not the least, (e) Censorship!
For me, personally, the reason why I download GoT episodes from torrent is because of that last point. Censorship. Aaarrrghhh. I hate it when scenes are censored out. And I am not talking about the nudity or sex scenes. Lolz, believe me, if I want porn, there are much better sources for that :P I care about censored scenes because cutting them out makes you lose sense of the ongoing plot. Take the very first episode of Season 1 for example that aired on cable here. Bran climbs up the tower. Bran peeks into the window. Suddenly Jamie Lannister appears out of nowhere and pushes him down. Why? Because censorship.
And here in India, they not only censor out all the "hot" scenes, but all the "gory death" scenes as well. I once made the mistake of watching "The Pacific" on cable. I am a huge fan of war drama, and "Band of Brothers" is one of my all-time favorite mini-series. But that day, as I sat on my beanbag in front of my TV, all excited about watching "The Pacific", hehe I was sooooo disappointed. Nothing made sense because they censored out all the death scenes. Suddenly, important characters were no longer in the show. And I had no idea what the hell happened to them because the scene where a head was split open by a sniper or where a marine stepped on a mine and blew himself to smithereens were all censored out. It was only when I downloaded the same TV show from torrent that I finally understood the story!
Coming back to the topic of Game of Thrones, yeah, this year, when I heard hotstar was going to screen the series to their premium subscribers here in India, I immediately signed up. I was ecstatic because FINALLY, I had the option of watching the show legally.
Here are the Pros and Cons of watching Game of Thrones via hotstar.
1. It costs just INR 199 a month, with the first month being free. That's cheaper than my daily cigarette pack.
2. The biggest problem with being a GoT TV fan (yeah I haven't read the books) is the show timing. It airs in the US on Sunday 9 PM ET, which is Monday 6:30 AM IST here. Monday means work. Back then, I had two options - (a) download from torrent after work, and (b) download from torrent before work. The problem with option "a" is that by the time you come back from work at the end of the day, you already know all the spoilers because of your asshole friends on social media :) And the problem with option "b" is that you not only end up going late to work, but all the early torrents don't have any subtitles for the Dothraki and Valyrian parts yet, not to mention poor video quality. The legal version solved all those problems.
3. Hotstar really listens to their subscribers' feedback. The past few episodes, many subscribers asked for English subtitles. And the latest episode came with English subtitles!
4. Flexibility – Out of the 6 episodes released so far this year, I didn't have internet at home on two occasions (thanks Reliance), and so I went to office earlier than usual, and logged-in to my hotstar premium account to watch the show before most of my colleagues reached office.
5. And last but not the least, the hotstar stream version is uncensored. Totally. :)
Now here are some of the CONS:
1. Hotstar accepts only credit cards as of now, so for the large majority of debit card users out there, you can't become a premium subscriber yet.
2. Though I mentioned in point #2 of the PROS that I can now watch the show before going to work, it is still not early enough. The latest episodes are available around 7:45 - 8:00 AM IST (an hour after it is aired in the US). So yeah I still end up reaching office a bit late, though you won't have a problem if you have a different schedule.
And of course you might ask, why don't I just watch in office like the two times above when I didn't have internet at home. Well, did I not mention it's an uncensored version? Yeah, it was not comfortable at all with colleagues walking around while I was watching the show. I had to be alert all the time to switch windows quickly whenever I suspected a boob was going to appear on the screen. :D
And so that's my experience of watching GoT legally online. A fine experience, and it fills you with a good feeling of doing something legally finally :D
Cheers then. Until the next episode. For the Door.