"Game of Thrones" season five premiered Sunday, April 12, but was preceded by an unprecedented leak of the first four episodes the day before its scheduled outing.
The highly anticipated fantasy miniseries, "Game of Thrones" debuted its fifth season on HBO but not before a massive leak of its first four episodes went viral on torrent sites Saturday.
Popular sites Torrentz and Kicka-- were inundated with nearly 50,000 downloads within the first two hours the leaked episodes were uploaded Sunday, with more than a million downloads for a single episode within the day.
Fans of the show, who were eager to view the first four episodes before the rest of North America on Sunday night and on Australia's Foxtel on Monday, seemed unmindful of the low quality definition of the leaks, with one torrent user even describing the torrent files as "Christmas come early," The Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The leaks were traced to a screener for season five labeled as strictly for review and translation purposes only. The episodes were on a DVD intended for review by the press, and appear to have had their digital watermark intentionally blurred. Speculations have also emerged leaks of episodes five and six were on queue to be released soon.
The network says they are currently investigating the breach.
One of the most pirated television series in the world, TorrentFreak records that "Game of Thrones" season four was illegally downloaded by an estimated 1.5 million online torrent site users, making it the most pirated show for the last three years in a row, the Internet tracking site said.
Major download sources were pinpointed in the U.S, Canada, Australia and the UK. HBO has even announced they would be telecasting "GoT" season five simultaneously in 170 countries to prevent global piracy of the show. Their recently introduced HBO Now service offers "GoT" and other shows at $14.99 without the need for a cable subscription.