Well, this is a fascinating development: Sky has announced that
the premiere episode of season 4 of Game of Thrones will air simultaneously with the premiere airing in the US. That means diehard fans in the UK will be able to watch it at 2AM, if they feel like it, right at the same time as fans in the US. The usual 9PM Monday airing will also take place, for those who prefer their prime time television at prime time.
[Edit: It’s come to my attention that I was off the mark on this—initial reports that all episodes would be aired at 2 AM appear to be incorrect, only the premiere will be simultaneously aired with the US airing.]
This may be a publicity stunt, or perhaps dipping a toe into the water to see what would happen—and if it works, it’d be a clear response to piracy of the episode in the UK. The economic arguments have been undercut somewhat: streaming packages offering Sky Atlantic, including the £15 monthly Sky Go and the £4.99 (introductory) price on NOW TV, are available without needing a full TV package. The other most common argument after that, however, was the fact that many die-hard fans want to be able to take part in the conversation after a new episode as soon as possible. They may not stay up to 3AM watching an episode, but there are many who’d get up a bit earlier in the morning to watch the show so they could immediately leap on to the forums, or at least be very happy to have the episode waiting for them when they get back from school or from work. Sky Atlantic’s 9PM airings prevented that, however, and the wait was simply too long…
But it may be that the future will invalidate that argument as well. It will be very interesting to see if this makes a dent in illegal downloads of the premiere of Game of Thrones in the UK, which was ranked as the country with the fourth highest illict downloads of the show last year.