After much anticipation, season six of Game of Thrones will premiere on April 24th. The much loved show is famed for its unpredictability, yet few will be surprised when Australians are once again singled out as the international online piracy kings.
Game of Thrones is probably the most pirated show in history, and Australians are at the front of the mob, with a third of viewers having illegally downloaded episodes during season five. If the show’s producers are hoping for this number to fall they will be disappointed. Yet while we may appear mean-spirited and unethical, the question needs to be asked: why are Australians illegally downloading in such large numbers?
It is not because Australians are unwilling to pay for content, but because of monopolisation. The options are fairly grim if you are wanting to view the show in a timely manner and at a reasonable price.
Want to view season six of Game of Thrones legally, here are your choices:
- Get Foxtel with the Drama package for $46 a month with a 12 month lock-in contract. With install fees the total cost will be $667.
- Gain three months free Foxtel platinum package (usually $134 a month) when signing up for Telstra Broadband. Technically this is free but you have to sign up to Telstra broadband for 12 months.
- Sign up to Foxtel Play for $45 a month with no-lock in contact. Total Cost, $112
- Purchase the season on iTunes after the whole season has aired and everyone has probably told you what happens. Cost – $39.99 for high definition.
- Wait for the DVD or Bluray (see point 4). You’ll be watching it right before season seven comes out.
Understandably, the majority of fans will be unwilling to wait for the DVD release, given the show’s infamy for spoilers, so there is no reasonable option that costs less than an exorbitant $100.
The show is trapped behind a paywall, forcing people to fork out for dozens of channels they don’t want or need in order to do the right thing. The problem is not Australians’ unwillingness to pay, but pricing and availability. By using outdated business models providers are creating the incentive for online piracy.
Illegally downloading content is undoubtedly a serious problem. It causes billions of dollars’ worth of lost revenue for creators and few would argue that it is ethical. Yet it needs to be admitted that the current approach to tackling piracy is not working. Anti-piracy legislation and policing it is fraught with difficulty, as often the technology is far outpacing the capacity of authorities to approach the problem with any sort of effectiveness.
Fortunately the answer may sit with the recent gamut of web based streaming providers transforming the market. Most people are willing to pay for content if they are given choice, flexibility and affordability. The greatest example of this working is Spotify. It’s a service people pay for monthly and they gain access to whatever music they want, on demand. It’s easy to use, it works on most devices, and it is legal. In fact, since its implementation, online piracy of music in Australia has decreased by 20 percent and is still dropping. It works.
Likewise, Netflix, Stan and Presto have each proven to be successful. Last year a survey by the IP Awareness Foundation found that internet piracy had dropped as much as 29 percent. The research found that the underlying reason for the reduction was increased access to content. 33 percent of respondents cited access to services like Netflix as the main driver behind their decision to cease illegally downloading.
Unfortunately for Game of Thrones fans, their beloved show is not available on any of these services, forcing them to make the choice between spending an unreasonable amount on Foxtel or accessing the content online for free. I already have Foxtel for its sports package, but I will have to add an extra $25 to my monthly bill in order to access one show. In the age of consumer empowerment and control, Foxtel is behind the times. They would do well to offer an option where people can select which specific channels they want, rather than locking them up behind expensive packages. By denying choice and convenience to its consumers, Foxtel is forcing piracy on itself.
Australians have already proved that we are happy to spend money on quality content if the service is reasonable. Please allow us to do so.