HBO has sent a letter to Williamsburg bar Videology telling them not to show Game of Thrones episodes on Sunday nights.
“They said that it’s not allowed to be shown in a public setting,” says the bar’s co-owner, James Leet. It’s the first time the bar has been asked not to screen a particular show.
For the past two years, Videology, a bar and screening room on Bedford Ave. that also has a video rental service, has shown episodes of the popular fantasy series during current seasons on Sundays at 9 p.m. It’s not the only series that gets the live treatment: The bar is currently airing Mad Men episodes, also on Sunday nights.
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But with last weekend’s leak — the first four episodes of Game of Thrones‘s fifth and current season appeared online hours before the premiere was to air — HBO seems to be cracking down on the ways in which non-subscribers have managed to watch the show. Game of Thrones has long been the most pirated TV show on the internet. Last year, the show’s season four finale broke the world record for piracy, with 1.5 million people downloading the episode within just twelve hours of its airing. The show even made it into 2015’s edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. Despite the leak, 8 million people watched last week’s season five premiere on HBO, a ratings record for the show.
Leet is disappointed by HBO’s request, particularly since Videology is far from the only bar to air Game of Thrones live on Sundays.
“It’s hard for us not to show it, because our fans love it,” Leet says. “And there are probably a dozen bars within a three-block radius of us that will be showing it. For them to single us out and tell us that we can’t show it is very disappointing.”
Leet says Game of Thrones has been a very popular event for the bar — some patrons even show up in costume. He points out that bars like Videology that treat each episode as an event have helped elevate the show “to a cultural level beyond that of just a TV show.”
“We’re sorry that our fans will not be able to see it in the future here,” he says. “We know they really enjoyed it, and we’re sorry we can’t do that for them anymore.”
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