Proof that die-hard Game of Thrones fans are loyal can be found in Sunday night’s ratings. HBO saw its best-ever live ratings this past Sunday with more than 10.2 million viewers tuning in to watch the 9 p.m. airing of the fourth episode of season seven, entitled “The Spoils of War”. The high ratings came despite the recent HBO hacking and multimillion-dollar ransom demand.
Though last season saw the show average 25.7 million viewers across all platforms per weekly episode, this latest number represents the linear 9 p.m. airing, which is reflective of viewers tuning in to the channel via their cable providers and is cumulative of both the EST and PST airings. This is a record for the show and tops the 10.1 million that watched the season premiere last month. The series previously averaged more than 8 million linear viewers.
This comes on the heels of what has been called the biggest hack attack to ever hit the Time Warner-owned network and follows the devastating 2014 Sony hack that crippled the studio. A group going by the name “Guardians of Peace” (GOP), thought to be associated with North Korea, released thousands of humiliating and damaging emails and released personal information, including salaries and social security numbers, of nearly 50,000 current and former Sony employees.
The unknown perpetrator in the HBO hack has threatened to cause severe damage by leaking sensitive documents and shows before their scheduled air dates. Even though this record-breaking episode made its way from Star India to copyright-infringing websites days before airing in the U.S., the leak didn’t impact the total audience.
A group of hackers have demanded millions in ransom for stolen HBO data that includes 50-plus internal documents labeled “confidential,” including a spreadsheet of legal claims against the network, job offer letters to several top executives, a list of nearly 38,000 emails and a document appearing to contain the confidential Game of Thrones cast list with personal contact information.
Hackers on Monday demanded millions in ransom from the network to prevent the release of entire television series and other sensitive proprietary files. HBO is working with police and cybersecurity experts to investigate the hack and the network reiterated yesterday that it doesn’t believe that its email system has been compromised in its entirety.
HBO CEO Richard Plepler received a five-minute video file dump from “Mr. Smith” that included white text, in flawed but fluent English, scrolling on a black background that delivered an ultimatum to pay up within three days or see 1.5 terabytes of stolen HBO series and confidential corporate data released online. The hackers have been releasing scripts and other information as they await payment. They claim it took them about six months to hack into the cable giant’s network, adding that HBO was a difficult target. They want a six-month salary paid in bitcoin to stop the leak and claim they earn upwards of $15 million a year by blackmailing organizations.
If the ransom isn’t met, the threat is to dump episodes of future shows online with their logo “HBO Is Falling” superimposed. The hackers also said that HBO is target No. 17 and that only three of their past targets wouldn’t pay the ransom demands. What move HBO will make next is impossible to guess, but for now, fans are remaining loyal to the cable network that brought them their favorite show.