There is one ring to rule them all, but when it comes to TV, there are two major fantasy series ruling piracy viewership.
HBO’s first Game of Thrones spinoff, House of the Dragon, and Prime Video’s J. R.R. Tolkien-inspired series, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, both enjoyed massive audiences in their respective debuts. House of the Dragon reached nearly 10 million viewers on its Aug. 21 premiere alone, with the debut episode growing to around 25 million viewers over its first week. Likewise, Rings of Power, which debuted on Sept. 1 with two episodes, reached 25 million viewers on its first day, the biggest premiere in Prime Video’s history.
But in today’s streaming world, viewership numbers are difficult to come by and often only self-reported. House of the Dragon isn’t releasing more official viewership numbers until the finale, and Rings of Power hasn’t released additional viewership data since its premiere.
However, data analytics company MUSO offers a different perspective on the battle for viewership, and House of the Dragon looks to have an early edge in one respect.
MUSO tracks global piracy and unlicensed media consumption, giving its clients a look at the true audience their content is capturing and working with ad agencies and partners to reach that market, focusing on content protection, audience measurement and monetization.
CEO Andy Chatterley told Adweek the company measures piracy across 388,000 TV and film titles on the torrent network and unlicensed streaming websites. Since the first six months of 2022, the company has tracked more than 105 billion visits to piracy websites, and TV consumption accounts for 47.1% of its total numbers.
The data analytics company doesn’t share specific numbers of downloads and streams to protect client privacy. Still, it shed some light on the online demand for House of the Dragon and Rings of Power since their respective releases.
When comparing the first seven days for both House of the Dragon Episode 1 and Rings of Power Episode 1, House of the Dragon had 45% more piracy than Rings of Power across a combined view of torrent downloads and unlicensed streaming. For Episode 2 of both shows, House of the Dragon had 127% more piracy.
“What that indicates to me is that demand, comparatively speaking for Rings of Power, sort of dropped off compared to popularity and demand for [House of the Dragon],” Chatterley told Adweek.
But despite House of the Dragon Episode 2 outpacing Rings of Power Episode 2 for demand, both are dominating pirated TV content.
When looking at Sept. 6-12, which is a period after both shows debuted, House of the Dragon had a 38.1% share of the Top 10 most pirated TV shows on torrent networks, and Rings of Power had 25.3%. Together, the shows had a 63.4% share of TV piracy consumption.
Of course, piracy measures only a portion of the demand for a series, not accounting for linear viewership, streaming from paid subscribers or even distribution. For instance, Rings of Power reached more than 240 territories for its debut. In March, HBO Max announced it was available in 61 territories.
A vast distribution disparity like this could contribute to House of the Dragon having more piracy interest overall.
For example, the United States was the No.1 country for piracy demand across torrents and unlicensed streaming websites for both series from their premiere dates through Sept. 7, accounting for 16.3% of piracy for House of the Dragon and 15.9% for Rings of Power. However, France was second on the list for House of the Dragon piracy and fifth for Rings of Power. HBO Max isn’t available in France, but Prime Video is.
The top five countries for House of the Dragon piracy in order include the U.S., France, the U.K., Canada and Germany. For Rings of Power, it’s the U.S., Turkey, the U.K., Canada and France.
MUSO also noted that each show appeared to have plenty of interest heading into their debuts, which was reflected in increased piracy for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies and HBO’s Game of Thrones series. According to MUSO, each franchise had similar consumption curves, spiking around San Diego Comic-Con weekend in July as trailers and news about House of the Dragon and Rings of Power released online.