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HBO go Pay TV only in deal that bites Australian fans

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?

About the author

Ross is a freelance writer who specializes in topics about the environment, architecture, art, design and creative tech. He is passionate about making a difference with his writing, whether that’s to encourage social change, promote a great idea, or just share a little bit of beauty with the world. You can find his work on sites such as Inhabitat, PSFK, and Techly.

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Comment (15)

    Lisa

    Sunday 9 February 2014

    This decision is only going to increase piracy. I bought season 3 of Game of Thrones on iTunes as it was a fair price. I outright refuse to waste $110 per month on 95 channels of junk just to be able to watch one show. Foxtel will eventually go the way of the dinosaur because of its inflexible offering.

    Reply

    Dan

    Monday 10 February 2014

    FTA TV is already a barren wasteland.

    Funnily enough, I have Foxtel – it’s not that expensive – but I still pirate GoT and others that are on Foxtel because it’s just so much more convenient. I can watch it on my PC/laptop/tablet/phone or even TV (how weird!) and despite the paytv promise of “express from the US” I still get it earlier online.

    Reply

    Todd

    Monday 10 February 2014

    Ha never downloaded a movie or tv show but this will make me do it with pleasure. Not one cent will go to Murdoch

    Reply

    Paul

    Tuesday 11 February 2014

    When Game of Thrones is the most pirated ‘thing’ in history, they decide to make a deal that is 100% guaranteed to increase piracy dramatically……. The only way to combat piracy is to increase peoples ability to consume the content, not the opposite.

    Good job HBO, you just shot yourself in the foot. You also gave all those pirates plenty of ways to get out of trouble if they get caught.

    Reply

    Aiden

    Friday 14 February 2014

    This basically makes Game of Thrones irrelevant to acquire by legitimate means here in Australia (unless you’re one of those people who waits till a season hits disk). The foxtel subscription contains way too much garbage programming and advertising for the few gems among the dump. Besides the fact that even the “straight from overseas” shows take about a week to air here by foxtel.

    It’s now entirely illogical for the Australian market to bother with watching Game of Thrones legitimately unless they already have foxtel with the channel.

    Reply

    realist

    Saturday 15 February 2014

    Everyone will continue to download it “illegally”.
    I buy the box sets when they come out because it’s worth it… but yeah.. not going to wait 2-5 years to watch it while the rest of the world is having the time of their life talking about it.

    Reply

    Droopystarfish

    Sunday 16 February 2014

    This is the most disappointing article i have read online in some time i pirate movies and tv shows all the time i can’t afford $70 a month for some pay tv junk that just plays the same thing over and over. I don’t even watch tv i have watched probably 1 hour last month i’m on my pc always. This is the worst thing HBO could have done they should have made a deal with the streaming services to promote there product and to get the content to us Australians at the same time as in the US lol. LONG LIVE THE PIRATE BAY antidisestablishmentarianism rules the world. :)

    Reply

    ShadyGoth

    Monday 17 February 2014

    I am not saying this excuses pirating content, but it does make it ever more understandable. Surely limiting and restricting legal access to the content is only going to encourage illegal access. If the legal content took advantage of the technology in the same way, was as convenient and prompt as the illegal content as well as competitive as possible in price, many would still pirate but I am sure many would rethink pirating as well.

    Reply

    Puzzled

    Monday 17 February 2014

    This explains why Rupert was willing to buy a government that would bury the NBN.

    Reply

    Robert Wilson

    Thursday 20 February 2014

    While everyone I know illegally downloads content I have continued to pay for shows I like. Partly because I’m a chump, and partly because I understand the commercial realities businesses face. I get they need to cover their costs and make a decent return in order to keep producing great tv, but things like this make no sense to me.

    Do they really think people who can no longer buy Game of Thrones on iTunes will go out and get Foxtel for one TV show (especially when it is so easy and tempting to download it for free). Plus what happen to competition? How, in a so called free market economy, is this justifiable?

    Reply

    John Samuelson

    Saturday 22 February 2014

    What worries me most is the possibility Doctor Who may be fenced off behind a pay TV screen. I hope to god ABC fights to keep that program, it’s all I watch them for.

    Reply

    Brett Robertson

    Saturday 1 March 2014

    Basically, Foxtel can go F themselves… I have HBOgo, TruTv, A&E, Disney, Netflix, Hulu, 72 live cable channels and all the rest of the premium US digital services streaming onto my TV here in Sydney. I will not pirate content under any circumstances, so after checking the Australian communications act and the US Digital Millenium Bill, found this method to be totally legal.
    It’s not free, but it’s way cheaper than a foxtel subscription.
    I am a cord cutter, Foxtel boxes have been returned and the subscription cancelled…

    Reply

    Anonymous Coward

    Friday 7 March 2014

    If HBO wants to increase revenues and reduce piracy they should provide their shows through iTunes/Amazon/Netflix etc. to rent for a reasonable price $1-$1.50 per episode. I will happily stop torrenting their shows when this becomes available.

    my 2c

    Reply

    wibbly wobbly

    Thursday 13 March 2014

    Please ABC keep the doctor away from these money hungry corporations my 15c a days worth

    Reply

    lmao

    Thursday 13 March 2014

    All it will do is increase piracy, and those that are new to torrenting shows will find a whole heap they can get easily. Like Telstra and their absolutely ridiculous and useless T-hub, it shows how far behind the times Murdoch and his morons are.

    Reply