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The Walking Dead season 8 is into its second week, with episode two of the zombie epic airing in the US yesterday and being broadcast in the UK tonight.

The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones are regularly listed as the two most torrented shows on the internet.

HBO’s fantasy epic has consistently been the number one show to illegally torrent these past few years, with The Walking Dead in second place.

But one torrent and illegally stream statistic has emerged since The Walking Dead season 8 kicked off which could leave fans stunned.

New research has looked at how often the premiere of The Walking Dead season 8 was illegally downloaded.

And the season 8 opener ‘Mercy’, which was also the 100th episode of The Walking Dead, has seen a huge drop in the number of illegal downloads.

Comparing the season 8 premiere with the season 7 opener, there was a 42 per cent drop, according to piracy-tracking firm Tecxipio (via Variety).

The drop in illegal The Walking Dead downloads could be attribute to a number of factors.

Last year AMC started adding watermarks to unaired episodes on their shows.

The digital watermarks are used to help trace the source of pirated copies that appeared online.

Being able to trace a leak to the source was meant to deter people from leaking episodes of AMC shows before their air date.

These invisible, identifying digital features are added to every AMC episode before they get distributed by forensic watermarking firm NexGuard.

Speaking about the anti-piracy measure, AMC’s CTO Steve Pontillo said: “It is paramount for us to protect our assets when they are at their most valuable.”

The NexGuard watermarks can also be added dynamically to set-top boxes or different sessions.

This would let copyright owners trace piracy back to the individual consumers that are behind the illegal downloads or streams.

Another way The Walking Dead is trying to tackle piracy is Fox Networks Group airs the show less than 24 hours after it debuts in the States on AMC in 125 countries.

So, AMC’s and Fox’s tact of tackling online piracy could be having its desired outcome.

The other possibility is that the sharp fall in illegal downloads potentially reflects a drop in popularity for The Walking Dead.

The drop in illegal downloads comes as viewing figures in the US also experienced a sharp fall for the season 8 premiere.

In the US, The Walking Dead season 8 opener drew in 11.4million viewers.

However, that is a sharp fall from the 17.5million people who tuned in to watch the season 7 opener.

It means that viewing figures were down 35 per cent year-on-year in the States.

It’s important to note that the Tecxipio statistics don’t take into account illegal online streams, which is a growing area of online piracy.

• The Walking Dead is on at 9pm GMT on Fox TV in the UK. You can watch Fox on Sky, Virgin, TalkTalk or on Now TV.



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