news Analysis by file-sharing news site TorrentFreak has shown that Australia continues to be the world’s most enthusiastic nation globally in terms of illegally downloading HBO’s hit TV series Game of Thrones, despite the fact that the series was made available legally, cheaply and in high quality in Australia shortly after it was broadcast in the US.
According to an article published by TorrentFreak on Monday, the first episode of the third season of the hit TV series had been downloaded over a million times illegally via the BitTorrent file-sharing platform at that point, with a record number of people sharing the episode.
Australia was the third most prevalent nation for Game of Thrones downloads, according to the site, with some 9.9 percent of those downloading the file residing in Australia. On a per capita basis, due to Australia’s small population, this means that Australia is the world’s most prolific nation when it comes to pirating Game of Thrones.
“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.”
The situation mirrors similar results last year when previous episodes of Game of Thrones were released. At the time, some 10.1 percent of Game of Thrones downloads originated in Australia, compared with 9.7 percent in the US, 7.7 percent in Canada and 7.6 percent in the United States.
The issue of the availability of Game of Thrones in Australia has been an enduring topic of popular debate associated with the issue of Internet piracy locally. In late April 2012, Shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull specifically mentioned the availability of Game of Thrones as he called for the content industry to start releasing all of its content globally through on- and offline platforms simultaneously upon launch, in an effort to meet the demands of consumers and make piracy irrelevant.
“Basically you’ve got to recognise that the minute Game of Thrones or any other show is put to air, it will be available globally,” said Turnbull. “So the owners of that copyright have got to be in a position where it can be released simultaneously theatrically, or in the case of something like that on Pay TV everywhere. But also, it should be for sale through the iTunes store or various other platforms at the same time.”
“Because if it’s not for sale — because what’s happening is, Game of Thrones, episode three I think goes on air this week in Australia. I think it went to air a couple of weeks ago in the States. It’s been tweeted and written up and Facebooked endlessly – and if they can download, they will. Now we’re just kidding ourselves — all they are doing is throwing money away by not making it available instantly.”
iiNet chief executive Michael Malone wrote on iiNet’s blog around the same time that he was a big of a “tragic” for Game of Thrones and it was “killing” him to know that he would have to wait several weeks before he could legally watch new episodes in Australia — even though Internet pirates had already made the content available on BitTorrent.
However, there appears to be less justification for Australians to download Game of Thrones and shows like it illegally under current circumstances. Just days after it aired in the US, local pay TV giant Foxtel has already started airing the new Games of Thrones episode in Australia. In addition, the episode is already available through Apple’s iTunes platform locally in HD quality for just $3.49, meaning it is trivial for Australians to obtain the content legally.
Foxtel is clearly conscious of the need to air Game of Thrones in a timely manner in Australia. “We realise that in a connected world everyone expects delivery of content to be simultaneous and seamless, no matter where you are,” said the group’s chief executive Richard Freudenstein in a major speech several weeks ago. “Our subscribers can join global conversations about Game of Thrones, Mad Men, The Carrie Diaries, Revolution, The Walking Dead, Boardwalk Empire and so many more, because we show them immediately after they have gone to air in their home markets.”
The fast-tracking of Game of Thrones to Foxtel in Australia has already had a dramatic impact on the show’s consumption by Foxtel subscribers. The Sydney Morning Herald reported yesterday: “The season three premiere had an average combined audience of 224,000 people over its four airings on Foxtel on Monday, with 104,000 people watching at 4.20pm (including the re-run two hours later on the ShowCase +2 channel) and 120,000 at 8.35pm, including the +2 viewers.”
Very interesting. It really does appear now — with Game of Thrones hitting Australia through iTunes just a day or so after it hits the US and a whole season available for purchase in HD for the price of a single DVD ($33.99) — that Australians’ self-righteous justifications for pirating Game of Thrones are pretty well dead. How can anyone in Australia possibly justify pirating Game of Thrones, when it’s so easily, quickly and cheaply available over iTunes in such high quality?
Australians have been arguing for most of the past decade that high rates of local piracy were due to the fact that we simply couldn’t get the same content as easily and quickly as US residents could. It’s fascinating to me that we continue to pirate Game of Thrones at a record rate, despite the fact that the content companies have clearly listened to these complaints and have tried to rectify them with legal alternatives. What does this say about ourselves? That we want Game of Thrones for free no matter how much it cost the creators of the show to make it? This bears a great deal of thought.
Image credit: HBO (promotional shot from Game of Thrones TV show)