Australia is one of the world’s biggest pirates of Game of Thrones. George made his feelings clear on this during his tour last year when he subjected us to a lecture about how more money going to the show meant they could make cooler dragons. Or something along those lines. “You can’t wait one day to watch it!” he exclaimed. What George probably doesn’t know – and of course he should be finishing book six and not investigating international piracy – is that to watch a season of Game of Thrones on cable TV in Australia costs the viewer a couple of hundred dollars.
Pay TV company Foxtel has the monopoly on cable television in Australia. Game of Thrones doesn’t air on any of Foxtel’s channels included in the basic package at $49 per month, customers are required to upgrade to a “movie package” which includes the channel Game of Thrones is aired on, Showcase. This costs a minimum of $74 per month. To buy a season pass from Apple TV or Quickflix only costs about $40. But last year HBO offered Foxtel an exclusive contract for Game of Thrones, which prevents local competitors fast-tracking it. They will ony be able to air it after the full season has aired on Foxtel. This means of course that any viewer wanting to watch Game of Thrones as it airs, legally, is going to have to fork out to pay for a Foxtel subscription.
Foxtel’s Director of Television Brian Walsh told TV Tonight.“It’s a big coup for us and we have a lot of ideas around the marketing of Thrones. Globally it’s a television sensation. I think having it exclusively in Australia on the Foxtel platform is indicative of the way we’re approaching a lot of our acquired content now. Our absolute desire is to increase our Subscriber numbers and exclusively acquiring Game of Thrones is important.”
Foxtel also signed a deal last year for a premium BBC channel. This will of course have an impact on the ABC, Channel Nine and Channel Ten, all of whom feature BBC comedies, dramas and documentaries. Will Doctor Who be next? Is this really a solution to the “war on piracy”? Or will it just drive more fans to obtain their favourite shows illegally?
Of course it will. Funnily enough HBO actually doesn’t seem terribly concerned about piracy. “I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but it is a compliment of sorts,” said HBO programming president Michael Lombardo last year. “It’s something that comes along with having a wildly successful show on a subscription network.”