by Ross Brooks in Web on Wednesday 5 February 2014

Game of Thrones is one of the most popular TV shows in Australia, and until now fans have been able to purchase the latest episode from iTunes the day after it airs on pay TV.

Unfortunately, those days will soon come to an end thanks to a ridiculous deal between Foxtel and HBO.

The exclusive deal between the two companies means that local competitors such as Quickflix and Apple’s iTunes won’t be able to offer any of Season 4 episodes until all of them have been broadcast on Foxtel.

Fans of the show were able to get hold of the latest season for $33.99 before the deal was made, but now the only option is to pay $75 per month for a Foxtel subscription with the Showcase channel.

There is also the option of a Foxtel Play online subscription, which is slightly cheaper given there’s no hard bundled requirements for subscription.

Analysis by file-sharing news site TorrentFreak published in April 2013, showed that Australia continued to be the world’s most enthusiastic nation when it came to downloading the show illegally.

This is one of the main motivations for the new exclusive deal, along with the ability to make even more money of course.

“The number three spot for Australia is impressive and with a population of just over 22 million people it has the highest piracy rate,” wrote TorrentFreak.

“Looking at other cities we see that most downloads come from London, before Paris and Sydney.”

Despite this evidence it’s pretty clear that making it even more difficult and expensive to watch GoT in Australia will only push more people towards piracy.

Consider how easy it is for other people around the world to watch the TV series and it’s understandable why so many people are angry. One article on Delimiter makes it clear what kind of attitude this new deal will breed:

“I’m not personally going to pay for a whole pay TV package just because I want to watch one series from HBO. This may be enough for me to boycott the series altogether, or I may just buy the Blu-rays in a few years’ time.”

If people weren’t already angry enough, it’s likely that even more HBO programs will go the same way thanks to another major content deal that was signed last year between the two companies.

It means that other shows such as True Blood and Boardwalk Empire would only be available via a Foxtel subscription.

Boardwalk Empire, another popular HBO show now only available to Australians via pay TV. Image courtesy HBO.

Will HBO’s attempts to build their empire lead Australians to switch off some of our favourite shows? Image courtesy HBO.

I wish there were some good news to throw in here to make things seem not so bad, but the truth is that it gets even worse – if you can believe that.

The deal also gives Foxtel access to HBO’s back catalogue of shows, which could seriously reduce the availability of shows via iTunes, Quickflix, and even services like Netflix if they make it into Australia.

In its quest for complete domination, Foxtel also plans to launch its BBC First channel later this year, which could fence off premium BBC programs as well. This may even include Doctor Who.

If you hadn’t already guessed from bleak prognosis in the last few paragraphs, free-to-air networks could soon be an arid wasteland when it comes to interesting TV shows.

Whether or not there will even be enough incentive for companies like Netflix to push into the Australian market is another issue altogether.

Unlike HBO and Foxtel, who seem to think they will make a difference, BitTorrent-based TV content distribution group EZTV has slightly more realistic expectations. A spokesman told Delimiter:

“We are ready to help out those Australians who are unable to afford the expensive subscriptions that are forced upon them by these monopoly-based companies.”

While they don’t understand why Foxtel wants to decrease availability of GoT either, the website is anticipating a healthy visitor boost later this year as Australians turn to piracy for their fix of fantasy violence.

It’s unlikely to console you very much, but HBO has long been opposed to offering easy access to GoT, even in the US where most routes require you to pay for a full subscription.

What’s more is that their need to tie-up exclusive deals with companies like Foxtel shows that they’re scared of the direction in which TV is heading.

Many people are turning their back of cable TV subscriptions altogether in favor of more accessible, and affordable streaming services.

Being a bit of an old-timer, it would appear HBO lacks the agility to adapt, which is why it has chosen to flex it’s muscles instead.

The only question left is how you plan to get your hands on the latest episodes of GoT? Will you let HBO and Foxtel gouge you for your money, or do you plan to take matters into your own hands?