news BitTorrent-based TV content distribution group EZTV stated overnight that it stood “ready” to help out cash-strapped Australians with unauthorised downloading of episodes of the popular TV series Game of Thrones, in the wake of the news that the next season of the show will be available in Australia only through subscriptions to pay TV provider Foxtel.
Game of Thrones — based on George R. R. Martin’s hit fantasy book series A Song of Ice and Fire — has leapt into the top ratings as one of the most popular television shows in Australia and globally over the past several years. However, at the same time, it has seen record levels of piracy in Australia due to the fact that it has not been available on free to air television, and had only recently been made available locally in a timely fashion through Apple’s iTunes platform after each episode airs in the US.
The high rates of piracy have spurred calls form authorities such as US ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich for Australians to stop pirating the show and buy it legally. However, the only avenues for Australians to do so have been to sign up for a costly ongoing Foxtel subscription, or to purchase it through iTunes at a rate of $33.99 per season — about the same price as buying the DVDs.
It was revealed in May 2013 that Foxtel had signed a deal with HBO which would block the remaining seasons of HBO’s popular Game of Thrones series from being offered in Australia hours after the show is released in the US, due to an exclusive deal with the show’s producer HBO signed in October last year. At that stage, the understanding was that the show would still eventually make its way onto iTunes — but at a later date, possibly months after the first episodes aired.
Yesterday, according to TV industry blog TVTonight (we recommend you click here for the full story), Foxtel went a step further in locking up access to Game of Thrones, signing a new deal with HBO which would stop the show being distributed through iTunes in Australia at all — even months late.
“Series 4 of Game of Thrones will be exclusive to Foxtel. It won’t be available on iTunes. And that hasn’t been the case for the last few series,” Foxtel’s Director of Television Brian Walsh told TV Tonight. The new season of Game of Thrones starts from 7 April.
In response to the news, US piracy news site TorrentFreak obtained a statement from EZTV (we recommend you click here for the full article). The site, founded almost a decade ago in May 2005, is run by a collection of volunteers and specialises in using the BitTorrent protocol to distribute episodes of popular television shows online. It is believed that many jurisidictions would be likely to consider downloading TV series through EZTV to constitute potential copyright infringement, however.
A representative from the site, ‘Novaking’, said that they don’t understand why Foxtel wants to decrease availability of Game of Thrones, and EZTV is anticipating a healthy visitor boost later this year as Australians turn to piracy instead. “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,” Novaking told TorrentFreak.
“Even for those who are happy to pay we provide more flexibility and a better viewing experience,” the spokesperson said, referring to the fact that, even for those who have already paid to access a monthly subscription plan to access Game of Thrones through Foxtel, the BitTorrent distribution route may be attractive, as it allows high-quality TV content to be viewed on any platform and without an Internet connection. Foxtel’s viewing platform is also available on many console, television, set-top and mobile platforms, but not all, and it also requires an Internet connection to stream TV series such as Game of Thrones. EZTV’s downloads are not subject to digital rights management.
According to an article published by TorrentFreak in April last year, the first episode of the third season of the hit TV series had been downloaded over a million times 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.”
As I wrote yesterday:
“Foxtel has just completely locked out all legal access by Australians to Game of Thrones episodes unless you sign up to its monthly subscription plans or buy the DVDs.
Well, I’m out of outrage at this point. I guess we should have expected this. We should have expected Foxtel to screw Australians over as much as they possibly could. And we should have expected HBO — which has always demonstrated that it doesn’t care at all about the international market outside the US — to completely ignore the fact that Foxtel is completely screwing Australian fans of its hit TV shows. This is all just to be expected. Hell, it’s a machiavellian move worthy of the plot twists within Game of Thrones itself. This is what Big Content does best in the 2010′s — make it almost impossible for people to easily access its products without mortgaging their souls.
It hardly needs to be said at this point, but it’s quite obvious what will happen from here. The already record levels of Australian piracy of Game of Thrones will go even higher, if that was even possible. And Australians are just going to hate Foxtel even more than they already do, if that was even possible. *sigh*”
Image credit: Still from Game of Thrones