Winter has arrived and the freeloaders are out in full force.

Long the most-pirated television show ever, “Game of Thrones” appears to have set another record. The recently concluded penultimate seventh season was illicitly watched a whooping 1 billion times, meaning that roughly 140 million people pirated each episode. According to MUSO, a piracy tracker, the majority of the unauthorized views came from streaming services (85%), while torrents—long the bête noire of the entertainment industry—were only used 9% of the time.

“Thrones” network HBO suffered a major security breach while the season was airing, leading to the sixth episode of the fantasy action-drama being leaked ahead of its release. Per MUSO, that appears to have contributed to a huge spike in piracy. “It’s no secret that HBO has been plagued by security breaches throughout the latest season, which has seen some episodes leak before broadcast and added to unlicensed activity,” MUSO chief exec Andy Chatterley told TorrentFreak.

It was clear from the beginning of the seventh season that “Thrones” would again reclaim its title of the most-shared show on BitTorrent for the fifth year in a row. Per TorrentFreak, more than 130,000 users were sharing a popular rip of the season premiere at the same time in July.

According to network HBO, a record 16.1 million viewers watched the season premiere within 24 hours of its release— up 50% from the previous season. But it also faces a problem given the increasing popularity of illegal streaming. The BitTorrent trade publication reports that one unauthorized streaming website was seeing 20,000 people an hour illegally playing the latest episode of “GoT.” Meanwhile a recent survey by finder.com found that 5.36% of Americans admitted to illegally streaming or downloading the television adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s series. That may translate to around 10 million Americans.

(HBO)

Also read: Financial mistakes may cost this ‘Game of Thrones’ family the Iron Throne 

HBO is a cash cow for parent Time Warner, reporting $583 million in operating income in the first quarter of this year. But even so, the unwillingness of a significant part of the population to pay $14.99 a month for a HBO Go subscription is a teething problem. One popular estimate suggests that the network may lose as much as $45 million each season to “Game of Thrones” piracy. “Westworld,” another popular HBO program, is also a favorite among pirates.

Here are the 10 most downloaded TV shows on BitTorrent as of last year:

  1. Game of Thrones (HBO)
  2. The Walking Dead (AMC)
  3. Westworld (HBO)
  4. The Flash (CW)
  5. Arrow (CW)
  6. The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
  7. Vikings (History)
  8. Lucifer (Fox)
  9. Suits (USA)
  10. The Grand Tour (Amazon Video)

This story was updated on September 8 2017 with news of 1 billion illicit views of the seventh season of “Game of Thrones”