The Game of Thrones premiere two weeks ago notched a record 8.2 million viewers. And you can bet that minutes after the show aired, several million more typed "Game of Thrones s04e01" into BitTorrent.
You can hardly blame them. TorrentFreak has some interesting assumptions about how much it would cost to watch Game of Thrones—legally—around the world. It's a fascinating exercise, and you should read it in its entirety. In Australia, for example, the cheapest Foxtel subscription—including a minimum term of six months—would cost about $490 USD. With 10 shows per season, that breaks down to $49 per episode.
In the U.S., how much you pay per episode depends largely on your location and cable provider. Unfortunately, they're all rather pricey:
The cost of most HBO subscriptions are between $15 and $25 per month, depending on where you live and what your current plan is. The downside, in addition to being locked in for several months sometimes, is that the HBO deals require a cable/Internet subscription. This makes the total package considerably more expensive, more than $100 per month in some cases.
So, let's say a standard package—say, a few channels plus HBO, maybe some crappy Internet—will run you about $70 a month for your first year sign-on deal. That's not unrealistic. Not including installation fees, you're looking at at least $80 per GoT episode. (Remember: 10 episodes per season.) That's Lannister money.
You might be able to go cheaper. Last December, Time Warner Cable introduced a package offering local channels, HBO, and HBO Go for $30 a month—which, with taxes and fees, would be closer to $45 to $50 a month without Internet. Still, that's at least $50 per episode.
HBO has hinted at a standalone HBO Go subscription before, but has been playing timeline details close to the chest. "We have the capacity to do whatever we want, when we choose to do it," HBO chief executive Richard Pleper said on a recent conference call. "It's just arithmetic. Right now, this is the best model." Chet Kanojia, CEO of Aereo, optimistically predicts HBO will be spun off within five years. But for now, the best model might be to just borrow someone else's HBO Go password.