GAME of Thrones's return to TV has seen an unprecedented numbers of illegal downloads.
International fans of Game of Thrones have been so eager to see the new series that they have broken piracy records by downloading the season premiere in their thousands 24 hours after it aired on HBO.
Hundreds of thousands of people have gone online to find an illegal copy of the programme, known as a torrent, to download and watch on a computer.
Data from TorrentFreak has shown that 163,088 people were sharing one single Game of Thrones torrent: 110,303 watching a complete copy of the file and another 52,786 downloading it, just a few hours after it was uploaded.
The data site said these were "mind-boggling figures that [they've] never seen before". The figures mean Game of Thrones has broken the record for the largest swarm of users sharing a torrent, which was previously held by the season premier of Heroes, with 144,663 users.
It's estimated that, combined with other released torrents, the Game of Thrones episode has been downloaded over a million times a day since it was released in America.
Pirates download for a number of reasons, including the delay between a show being aired in different countries. However, Game of Thrones fans who live in America and don't pay for a subscription to HBO also rely on downloads – with pirates in America making up 12.9 per cent of the total, the largest share.
Fans in the UK come a close second with an 11.5 per cent share, and London was the top city for piracy, taking 4.3 per cent.
Game of Thrones has always been popular with pirates, who made it the most pirated TV show of 2012. The show's director David Petrarca said in February that illegal downloading didn't bother him as it contributed to the "cultural buzz" which allowed the show's survival.
He later added that piracy was "a compliment", a sentiment which was shared by HBO programming President Michael Lombardo and actress Rose Leslie, who plays Ygritte in the show.
However, after his comments became as widespread as his show online, Petrarca said he was "100 per cent" against illegal downloading. Either way, piracy can't be doing Game of Thrones too much harm, as a fourth season of the drama was confirmed earlier this week.