What pirates watch: "Game of Thrones" - Axios
Top Stories
Featured

What pirates watch: "Game of Thrones"

A promotional image for the eighth season of The Walking Dead. Photo: AMC

The Walking Dead's eighth season premiere aired last weekend to a five-year ratings low with its total viewers down one-third from last season's kickoff, per Variety. But AMC's flagship zombie series also sustained a severe dip in another measure: online piracy. Users torrenting this year's premiere were down 42% from last year, according to the piracy measurement service TECXIPIO.

Why it matters: A 2013 Columbia University study indicated that pirates are overwhelmingly likely to be younger and more technologically savvy — exactly the target audience a network would desire for driving a zeitgeisty television series. So while AMC might chalk up the drop in viewers illegally watching The Walking Dead to its anti-piracy efforts, this trend suggests that the network's cash cow series is losing its cachet with intelligent, Internet-savvy users while a contemporary like Game of Thrones has seen both its ratings and piracy numbers go through the roof.

The state of play: According to TorrentFreak, The Walking Dead was the second most-torrented show of last year — though it fell far behind Game of Thrones in the top spot. So its 42% drop in piracy represents a huge drop in the raw number of illegal downloaders.

The missed target: A Viacom survey indicated that a plurality of all television viewers from ages 6 to 34 are "engaged viewers." They define engaged viewers as watching more television than ever, utilizing more sources to watch television, and using television to generate discussions with others. Critically, the survey notes that "the age breakout of engaged viewers mirrors the online population."

One possible explanation: Last week's premiere of The Walking Dead marked its hundredth episode. Earlier this year, its showrunner envisioned the series running for at least 20 years. At 16 episodes per season, the show is already super-sized when compared to other prestige shows that tend to include 10 to 12 episodes in each season. In an age of seemingly endless entertainment options, engaged viewers demand an experience that will have some sort of payoff for their huge time investment. That puts The Walking Dead in an awkward position as some of its most acclaimed competitors — like Game of Thrones and The Americans — will soon kick off their long-planned final seasons.

Speaking of: HBO announced last year that Game of Thrones' seventh and eighth seasons would be its last — and would be shortened to single-digit episode orders to condense the show's action and maximize its budget. Its seventh season finale, which aired in August, was the network's highest rated episode ever. But the show's ratings can't begin compare to its illegal popularity as the seventh season as a whole was pirated over a billion times.

Expert Voices Featured

Basting with the best: Thanksgiving tips from 5 top chefs

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

It's our first Thanksgiving here at Axios, a fine occasion in its own right to raise a glass and polish off a few plates of food. The big meal seemed like a good time to invite helping hands into the kitchen, so we asked a group of chefs and food writers for their favorite holiday tips.

The culinary experts:

  • Alison Roman, food writer and recipe developer: A host's guide to staying sane
  • Molly Lopez, baker: Thanksgiving with a global twist
  • David Lebovitz, cook and pastry chef: A secret sauce in seconds
  • Bill Yosses, former White House pastry chef: A prep essential for every dish
  • Aaron Silverman, chef and restaurateur: How the French do mashed potatoes
Featured

Sessions orders review of firearm background check database

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to review the U.S. database used for background checks on firearm buyers, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: Sessions used the Sutherland Springs shooting as evidence of a need to review the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), as the shooter was able to buy a gun despite having been convicted of domestic assault. The Air Force said it failed to enter his information into the federal database.

Featured

Lyft is raising another $500 million

Josh Edelson / AP

Ride-hail company Lyft is raising up to $500 million in additional funding, according to a share authorization document filed yesterday in Delaware. This comes one month after Lyft announced a $1 billion infusion led by CapitalG, an investment arm of Google parent Alphabet. A company spokesman stresses that the $500 million is not yet closed, but adds: "Increasing the potential for this round will allow us to further accelerate our commitment to serving passengers and drivers."

Details: The new investment would be an extension of the CapitalG-led round, at the same share price of $39.75. That means the $10 billion pre-money valuation remains static, but the post-money could now value Lyft at $11.5 billion.

Below is the Delaware document, which was provided to Axios by Lagniappe Labs (creator of the Prime Unicorn Index)


Featured

Two more women say Franken groped them

Sen. Al Franken. Photo: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx

Two women told the Huffington Post that Sen. Al Franken "touched their butts" in unrelated incidents. Four women have now accused Franken of unwanted contact.

Why it matters: Senate leadership have called for an Ethics Committee investigation into the Minnesota senator, which Franken himself has said he will cooperate with.

  • One woman said Franken groped her during a photo at an event hosted by the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus in 2007: "People are saying that this is a right-wing conspiracy...It's not. I'm a liberal person...I voted for him after this happened."
  • The second woman said Franken "cupped her butt" in 2008 at a Democratic fundraiser: "My immediate reaction was disgust...but my secondary reaction was disappointment. I was excited to be there and to meet him. And so to have this happen really deflated me."
Featured

ICE is seeking a program to monitor the social media of visa-holders

ICE agents at a home in Atlanta, during a targeted enforcement operation. Photo: ICE via AP

Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said at a tech industry conference last week they are seeking algorithms that can "conduct ongoing social media surveillance" of visa holders that are considered high risk, according to ProPublica.

Why it matters: The announcement of the program, later named "Visa Lifecycle Vetting," spurred backlash from civil liberty groups and immigrants. ProPublica notes that, taken in conjunction with Trump's calls for "extreme vetting" and his campaign proposal for a Muslim ban, there is concern it could be discriminatory toward Muslim visa holders. Acting deputy association director for information management at ICE Homeland Security Investigations, Alysa Erichs, said the goal is to have "automated notifications about any visa holders' social media activity that could 'ping us as a potential alert.'"

  • But, but, but: According to Alvaro Bedoya, the executive director of Georgetown Law's Center on Privacy and Technology, ICE is "building a dangerously broad tool that could be used to justify excluding, or deporting, almost anyone."
  • A group of engineers, computer scientists, and other academics wrote to acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke of their "grave concerns" about the program, saying it would likely be "inaccurate and biased."
  • Carissa Cutrell, an ICE spokeswoman, told ProPublica the "request for information...was simply that - an opportunity to gather information...to determine the best way forward."
Featured

Peter Thiel might try to buy Gawker.com

Kevin Moloney / Fortune Brainstorm Tech

Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire investor who funded ex-wrestler Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker, is seeking to pause the sales process of the now-defunct website, arguing that he was unfairly excluded from making a bid, according to a bankruptcy court filing obtained by BuzzFeed.

Why it matters: The buyer of Gawker.com (the rest of Gawker Media's properties were acquired by Univision last year) will be able to do with its contents as they please, including deleting specific articles. There are still ongoing legal actions over a few articles in the archive. Though Thiel never admitted as much, it was long rumored that his decision to help Hogan was fueled by unflattering coverage of him and his business activities over the years, including a 2007 story about the fact that he is gay.

Featured

The blowback from Uber's data breach

A man exits the Uber offices in Austin, Texas. Photo: Eric Gay / AP

Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut are planning investigations into Uber's recently announced 2016 breach that left 57 million customers' and drivers' data vulnerable to criminals, and the FTC might launch a probe as well, according to Recode.

Why it matters: Most states (48) have some form of a law requiring companies to reveal data breaches to consumers, but Uber did not immediately disclose the details to consumers and reportedly tried to cover up the hack.

The FTC may also launch a probe into Uber, Recode reports, citing two sources who say Uber has already briefed the agency. The FTC said it was looking into the matter.

  • The FTC just penalized Uber in August for other privacy and security practices and had asked Uber to maintain all records related to privacy and security for investigators. This apparent cover-up could throw a wrench in those conclusions issued in August.
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal urged the FTC to take "swift enforcement action and impose significant penalties" on Uber, and Rep. Frank Pallone is calling for a Congressional hearing on the matter.

Global blowback: Authorities in Australia and the Philippines said they would also be investigating, and the UK's data protection regulator brought up potential penalties for Uber, per Reuters.

Bottom line: The news is not good for Uber on a global scale. It could face penalties and fines in addition to paying the steep legal price associated with suits after a year filled with other headaches related to security, privacy, and its culture.

Featured

Men behaving badly

The bombshell report from The New York Times last month on decades of sexual harassment and assault by producer Harvey Weinstein started a domino effect as other women spoke out about mistreatment by men in positions of power.

Featured

Trump Org. walking away from SoHo hotel

The Trump Soho hotel. Photo: Seth Wenig / AP

The Trump Organization has made a deal allowing it to walk away from the Trump SoHo hotel by the end of the month, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: Per the Times, the hotel has "struggled to attract guests" and had to close its main restaurant in April due to what the restaurant's lawyer called a "decline in business since the election." The Trump Org. faced several lawsuits over building the hotel, per the Times, one of which alleged it "was backed by felons and financing from Russia." Russian-born businessman Felix Sater, who has been in the news following the election for having pushed for a Trump Tower in Moscow, was involved in the deal.

Featured

Video released of North Korean defector crossing DMZ

Photo: United Nations Command via AP.

A video just released by the United Nations shows the North Korean soldier who defected to the South on November 13th making his getaway in a green jeep, running towards the border separating Panmunjom, North Korea from the South, and then collapsing on the South Korean side.

Why it matters: The event amounts to a violation of the armistice, since he was shot five times in his successful effort to defect from the North Korean regime, South Korea says. He was ultimately rescued by South Korean soldiers. Pyongyang has yet to say anything about the defection but the UN Command says it has requested a meeting to discuss the apparent armistice violations.

The scene, per the AP's Foster Klug: "It's 3:11 p.m. on a cold, gray day on the North Korean side of the most heavily armed border in the world, and a lone soldier is racing toward freedom."

  • "His dark olive-green jeep speeds down a straight, tree-lined road, past drab, barren fields and, headlights shining, across the replacement for the Bridge of No Return..."
  • "The shock of soldiers watching the jeep rush by is palpable from the video released Wednesday and no wonder: They're beginning to realize that one of their comrades is defecting to the South."
  • The defector crashes his jeep into a ditch.
  • The South says North Koreans fired about 40 rounds from AK-47s and rifles at the defector. No fire was exchanged between North and South Koreans.
  • The defector makes it over the border, and then turns around and runs back towards the North before collapsing by the wall. South Koreans crawl to pull him to safety.
  • "The entire sequence, from the first appearance of the jeep to the soldier's frenzied crossing, lasts four minutes."

A clue to life in North Korea: The defector had two surgeries to repair internal organ damage and is conscious. Surgeons "removed dozens of parasites from the soldier's ruptured small intestine, including presumed roundworms that were as long as 27 centimeters (10.6 inches), which may reflect poor nutrition and health in North Korea's military."

Watch: