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  • Digital Rights, News - Written by on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 9:34 - 14 Comments

    EZTV stands “ready” to help Australians with Game of Thrones torrents


    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

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    1. Mike
      Posted 04/02/2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink |

      Alright I’ll bite.

      Where were the competition (like Apple iTunes and FetchTV) in all of this?

      I only really see it one of two ways. Either HBO was shopping out exclusivity for a show that is definitely going to guarantee an increase in business or Foxtel threw so much money at them they couldn’t say no (see my pyrrhic victory comment in yesterdays article).

      It’s unfortunate that potentially legitimate customers are being put in a position where should they not be able to afford the (ridiculously overpriced and totally underwhelming) Foxtel subscription they will need to break the law.

      I wonder what Ed Husic is thinking about this…

      • quink
        Posted 04/02/2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink |

        Meanwhile, over on /r/australia: http://www.reddit.com/r/australia/comments/1wxf1u/murdochs_nightmare_how_to_replace_foxtel/

        It’s positively heartwarming to see FOXTEL do this and thus hasten their inevitable demise. I hope they paid lots of money to HBO too.

        Good on them for getting the government to pay to extend HFC but still devote a large share of the frequency spectrum on HFC for FOXTEL only – what a rort – it’s probably one of the last they’ll still have the political capital to take advantage of with their days being numbered. Can

        • quink
          Posted 04/02/2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink |

          ‘t wait to see Netflix arrive on these shores rather than relying on somewhat less convenient methods :)

          I think FOXTEL needs more crappy linear channels to boost their numbers. They should also get more synergies out of their relationship with Telstra, maybe they can introduce something anti-competitive like cheaper FOXTEL GO or something that farts in the face of net neutrality. Especially if the CBN’s HFC won’t be wholesale but Telstra only.

          I’m looking forward to the point where even the most ardent FOXTEL subscribers realise how much better off countries overseas are both now and will be in the coming two decades until the demise of FOXTEL and Telstra :)

          • quink
            Posted 04/02/2014 at 11:02 am | Permalink |

            Also, I love the wording in the above linked article: https://torrentfreak.com/australia-breeds-pirates-game-thrones-140203/

            > Australia breeds more Pirates by locking up Game of Thrones

            Mmmmmmmmmmm… good stuff. Education is always a good thing. And in this case when there’s a financial incentive for people to educate themselves, even better.

          • Mike
            Posted 04/02/2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink |

            Having just returned from the Czech Republic I can attest to just how good they have it over there. I was in an apartment where for $40 (roughly 800 koruna’s) a month you got an unlimited 40/5 FTTP connection with basic cable TV which is pretty much everything except the Showtime and HBO channels.

            It was very depressing returning to Australia and seeing that nothing has changed, and having that dreadful feeling that nothing will change. I now laugh when people say “if we don’t do it, we’ll fall behind” and point out that compared to large parts of Europe and Asia we’re pretty much stuck in the stone age.

      • Tezz
        Posted 04/02/2014 at 11:17 am | Permalink |

        FetchTV could be an interesting one, since HBO is a paid subscription channel it makes you wonder if Fetch could just do it as a seperately paid for channel like they currently do with Santana Sports.

    2. Dave
      Posted 04/02/2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink |

      Sharing is caring :) Thankyou EZTV. It’s akin to a bailout package for those who don’t want to be extorted.

    3. StephenH
      Posted 04/02/2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink |

      We will never know how many Australians downloaded Game of Thrones; only how many didn’t hide their Geo location tracks when they did.

    4. Michael
      Posted 04/02/2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink |

      What brilliant manager thought to pay more to further restrict access to GOT in a country with the highest piracy rate in the world?

    5. GENIII
      Posted 04/02/2014 at 1:23 pm | Permalink |

      Good on EZTV, pity they are about 4 hours too late in putting torrents up for the plebs to download. Private trakcers is where it’s at.

      Fuck you Rupert. Never will i spend a dollar to feather your nest.

    6. Ted
      Posted 05/02/2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink |

      Go on and continue expressing your entitled outrage over a subscription based business making their service more desirable. Now I know the same as you all do, that Foxtel is archaic and overpriced, but where are the complaints about the lack of other services in Australia that could take on such shows? Or HBO screwing over Australia. But no, stick it to the man – “Fuck you Rupert” you say. Guess what? Rupert wasn’t going to make a dime off you tech geeks anyway, so even he doesn’t give a shit.

    7. JD
      Posted 05/02/2014 at 6:17 pm | Permalink |

      Aussie currently living in Indonesia.. This is my plan :

      Cable Modem Internet with truly Unlimited downloads, No throttling.
      Cable TV with all the American Channels Warner, HBO, Showtime
      Fox, Cinemax all Nat Geos, E, TruTV, NBA, NFL, dedicated channels etc etc. All in True High Definition.
      Including the Formula One, with all Practice, Quali, and Race Days coverage
      On FOX in HD mind you, live with little to no Ads. (why cant we get that at home..?)
      Setanta sports wihich plays all the NRL Super and International Rugby and Provincial Rugby.
      2 Dedicated EPL channels.. The Cricket Channel from India which has every Aussie and
      International form of cricket imaginable. Indonesian Channels,ABC, BBC, Euro Sport all the usual International news channels etcetera ..the list is truly mind boggling and brilliant. This with 3 HD recording tuners in separate rooms for the golden price of $77, without the dedicated Rugby and Cricket channels it drops to $50.90.

      Foxtel which I had back home for about $90 (for one non HD, non recording tuner, with no movies) and will probably have again once back (due to a rugby obsession, but once again wont be able to justify movie channels or the above “Premium Drama”)
      is such an inferior product it is a deadset joke. Gouged to the Eyeballs. Hence UTorrent is my best friend.
      Rant over..ta.
      Proof : http://jkt.firstmedia.com/page/homecable-hd

    8. gordon451
      Posted 18/02/2014 at 5:38 pm | Permalink |

      Couple of points here.

      @Ted: Actually there was at least one competitor to Foxtel. Can’t remember its name, ‘cos Foxtel did a Quantas. Remember the 4 or 5 cut-price airlines that tried to “have a go”? I’ll bet you can’t remember their names!

      @EveryoneElse: Australia used to be a British Clony, then they let us be Self-Governing, around 1900. So we swapped British rule for USA rule. And we’re still not free. _Colonies_don’t_get_anything_at_low_prices_or_in_a_timely_manner._

      @Renai: Sorry. Any talk about Canberra’s iniquity lights my fuse.

    9. woody119
      Posted 26/02/2014 at 8:11 pm | Permalink |

      EZTV is the best site on the net!

      I can’t get Foxtel in my area (had it when it was cheaper, but wouldnt get it for the price nowdays)
      EZTV lets me watch the shows I want to watch, when I want to watch them.

      All the matters is the US market anyway, even if a show has great ratings in Australia, but so, so in the US, it will still get cut :(

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