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Game of Thrones is still the most pirated TV show on air, by a long shot

HBO’s massively successful Game of Thrones series is down to the last three episodes of its fourth season, and it doesn’t appear likely that the series’ snowballing acclaim will let up anytime soon, especially within the torrenting underbelly of the Internet. This season’s second episode “The Lion and the Rose” set a record after its U.S. debut when a single file version of the episode soared to 193,418 seeds on torrent tracker, The Pirate Bay. Tech site Pocket-lint recently took a look at the world’s most popular torrent site and compared Thrones with a few other hit shows to see how they stacked up.

Thrones‘ latest episode, which aired Sunday, reached nearly 100,000 seeds for the standard definition copy and almost 50,000 for the 720p HD version – very big numbers for a single episode. These numbers don’t factor in the many duplicates listed on the torrent site, as well as those users who download the torrent but don’t stick around to seed to other users. Pocket-lint found that 24: Live Another Day‘s latest episode only reached 9,500 seeds for the SD version and just 2,800 for the HD. The latest Mad Men episode managed to hit 5,500 for SD and 2,000 for HD, and DC Comics’ Arrow clocked 10,000 for SD and 2,000 for HD.

Pocket-lint’s report found that the only show to come remotely close to Thrones, in terms of piracy, was The Big Bang Theory. The comedy’s most popular episode on The Pirate Bay had 21,500 seeds for the SD version and 3,000 for the HD.

And as far as legitimate viewings are concerned, Nielsen ratings show that Thrones averaged 2.5 million U.S. viewers during its regular first season time slot in 2011. That average jumped to 3.8 million in 2012 and then to 5 million last year for its third season. This last weekend, the fourth season’s seventh episode “Mockingbird” netted 7.2 million viewers.

Before you dive headlong into the confusing and potentially risky realm of torrenting for the first time, read through our guide to downloading torrents, as well as a list of our favorite torrent sites.

If you want to catch up with Thrones-frenzied fans without trying your hand at torrenting, check out our guide to watching the fantasy series online. And for you pirates with cursors already hovering over that “Download” button, be sure to hit up our lists of the best free antivirus and anti-spyware software: we’ve got one for PC and one for Mac – better safe than sorry, right?

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