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Burning Question: Why Is HBO Happy That People Pirate ‘Game of Thrones’?

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Maisie Williams as Arya Stark on "Game of Thrones" (HBO)

I saw the head of Time Warner (HBO's parent company) is happy that "Game of Thrones" is the most pirated show on TV. Why aren’t the cable networks upset about that? It’s my favorite show and, yes, I pay for it. — Bethenny D., New York

Child, this is Hollywood. Up is down. Left is right. Bad is good. And piracy? For some of the suits out here, piracy is, apparently, awesome.

"We've been dealing with this for 20, 30 years — people sharing [subscriptions], running wires down the backs of apartment buildings,” Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes told AdWeek this week. “Our experience is that it leads to more paying subs. I think you're right that 'Game of Thrones' is the most pirated show in the world.

“That's better than an Emmy.”

[Related: 'Game of Thrones' Star Kit Harington Defends Red Viper Casting]

I’ll let that sink in for a minute: The head of Time Warner thinks that having his stuff stolen is better than winning the highest honor that the TV industry has to offer.

How can this be? Well, there’s a logic to this insane-sounding statement, though. Sort of. I mean, about as much logic as you can get in this business.

It goes like this: Emmys bring in money for a network.

But so does the word-of-mouth spread by your broke-ass friends who are all excited because they just saw Daenerys Targaryen’s dragon eggs.

[Related: Parenting Advice for William and Kate From 'Game of Thrones']

“People pirate their cable subscriptions when they’re starting out and don’t have any money,” explains Tom Adams, research director for US Media at IHS Electronics & Media. “But then later on, they move, get a new apartment, and they become real subscribers.

“So there’s a direct monetary benefit for having Emmy-winning shows on your network and there’s an upside to getting your shows known by other people stealing them.”

But, and this is a big but, Adams says, “both of those benefits are unquantifiable.”

In other words, Bewkes wasn’t exactly shooting his mouth off when he made that quip to AdWeek. But given the lack of hard data comparing, you know, theft to Emmys, he could have been indulging in a little hyperbole.

Now, if Bewkes were talking about the DVD business, you can bet he wouldn’t have been so flip.

“Where piracy is really eating the industry’s lunch is DVD sales,” Adams tells me. “It’s shrunken that business by several billion dollars. But something tells me that wasn’t on Bewkes’s mind when he made that statement.”

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