If Donald Trump thinks his leak problem is bad, he should have a look at what’s happening over at HBO. The cable network has been dealing with a series of Game of Thrones-related leaks that continue to dominate headlines as the show nears the finale of its penultimate season.
HBO’s headache first began last month when hackers breached the company’s servers and released season 7 script outlines online. Things went from bad to worse when an entire episode was leaked by one of HBO’s international distribution partners (the culprits have since been arrested). But the latest leak is perhaps the most egregious of all because it appears to be a case of someone at HBO just not being very good at their jobs.
On Wednesday, HBO confirmed that the upcoming episode “Death is The Enemy” was accidentally uploaded on the HBO Nordic and HBO España platforms.
“The error appears to have originated with a third party vendor and the episode was removed as soon as it was recognized,“ HBO said in a statement. "This is not connected to the recent cyber incident at HBO in the U.S.”
So while someone at HBO isn’t directly to blame, it’s still up to the company to properly train its affiliates when it comes to handling such sensitive material. Though the episode was only up for an hour, that equals about a decade in internet time and the episode had already spread like wildfire by the time HBO caught the mistake.
This is by far Game of Thrones’ most watched and most talked about season yet. But what should have been a triumphant victory lap for the network has turned into a month-long crisis that’s dominated the conversation and forced the network to issue a deluge of press releases explaining themselves.
Luckily for HBO, the damage has been minimal. Most Game of Thrones fans are more than willing to wait until Sunday to get their fix, as evidenced by this season’s record ratings. But the effect these leaks have on the network’s overall reputation is an entirely different story.
Going forward, creatives might think twice about bringing their shows to a network that can’t guarantee their security. Already, unaired episodes of Curb Your Enthusiam’s hugely anticipated upcoming season have hit the web, months before they’re scheduled for broadcast.
For now, HBO insists that it is above dealing with hackers that may “continue to drop bits and pieces of stolen information in an attempt to generate media attention,” calling it “a game we’re not going to participate in.” But if the leaks continue to jeopardize the sanctity of its many creative properties, the network might not have a choice.