Screw you, Australia: Game of Thrones goes Foxtel-only



news Want to watch HBO’s Game of Thrones show in Australia without signing up to a pricey Foxtel subscription? Bad luck: As of this week you’re out of legal options. Foxtel has reportedly signed a deal with HBO which will block the show from airing through any other medium — at all — apart from DVD release, in a move which appears set to drive more Australians to downloading the show via file-sharing protocols such as BitTorrent.

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.

Analysis by file-sharing news site TorrentFreak published in April 2013, for example, showed that Australia continued to be the world’s most enthusiastic nation globally in terms of illegally downloading 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, through platforms such as Apple’s iTunes and the Foxtel pay TV service.

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 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.”

When Foxtel signed its initial deal with HBO to block the timely release of Game of Thrones via iTunes, I was outraged enough. As I wrote at the time:

What. A. Big. Fat. Fucking. Joke. Screw you, Foxtel. It doesn’t get much more anti-competitive than this. If you want to watch Game of Thrones in Australia, it turns out, you can’t just pay $33-odd per season any more, at least for Season 4 and beyond. You’ll need to pony up a cool $47 per month for Foxtel’s essentials package, plus another $25 a month for Foxtel’s Movies and Premium Drama offering. Well screw that. I’m not personally going to pay for a whole pay TV package just because I want to watch one series from HBO. This may be enough for me to boycott the series altogether, or I may just buy the Blu-rays in a few years’ time. I’ve read the books a few times anyway, so no great loss.

While I’m on this rant, screw you, HBO, just as much as Foxtel. Why the hell a cable TV operator like HBO would want to lock up its content exclusively to a single company in a market such as Australia really beats me. Isn’t about producing content all about having people consume it? Ultimately, of course, what it probably comes down to is money. Foxtel has no doubt thrown down a huge wad of cash for HBO to gorge itself on — likely far more than HBO would get through individuals buying Game of Thrones on iTunes or through selling Game of Thrones through free to air TV stations.

It’s great news for Foxtel, and great news for HBO. The only stakeholder which loses out here is the actual Australians who want to watch Game of Thrones. But then … when have they mattered to such large companies? And the inevitable will result: I suspect many people reading this article right now are thinking: “Righty-oh-then. BitTorrent it is.”

Well, it turns out that things actually can get more anti-competitive. 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


  1. Bugger hey. Although I stopped watching the show awhile ago because it started to go a bit whacky compared to the books, still sucks though if anyone wanted to finish it :(
    Another blow.

      • I beg to differ, it can’t have jumped the shark after only three seasons.

        I’ve read the books (it took me the majority of last year) and whilst the plots of the books and TV show have been moving apart it’s not beyond reconciliation or at least some key plot points and events remaining common to both. It was annoying that there were plot points missed at the end of season three, but those of us in the know can look forward to them very early in season four, wink wink nudge nudge.

        TV audiences need climax’s at the end of seasons, and high impact at the start to keep them watching. They don’t have the patience of the literate minority, so we have to keep to their schedule or deal with shows getting axed mid-stream. ’tis a conundrum.

      • Exactly… though I see that someone has already made a XXX parody of the series called “Game of Bones – Winter is coming” *snorts*

        Supposedly though it has less sex!

    • No wonder people are downloading it illegally. That being said iTunes sells each episode for $3.50. Google Play sells each game of thrones episode for $3.00.

  2. A national boycott of the whole Murdochracy is needed, remove the throne from under Murdoch.
    Boycott Foxtel and all Murdoch publications!

    • It gets worse.
      If you’re not familiar with the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal currently being secretly negotiated between a number of Pacific nations and some of the world’s hugest corporations, Rupert is up to his neck in it. Tony Abbott has said he will sign the TPP without question, at which point we’ll get slapped with draconian intellectual property copyright and there will be international legal pressure for Australia to legislate so that ISP’s are legally responsible for the copyright infringements of their account holders. You could end up with a criminal record for downloading something like Game of Thrones.

  3. i’ve said it before, if the government want to tackle the problem of piracy they should start by banning exclusive content deals between the content producers and the distributors.

    • Limited exclusivity deals aren’t a problem, like if Foxtel had the rights to show GoT for a week or month before each episode was released to other platforms, complete exclusivity deals like this are completely moronic though.

    • It’s more likely that this government would try to ban torrents rather than exclusive deals.

      • First they will try ban Youtube as they have flagged Tony Abbott’s channel as “Deceptive Content” and removed it he he.

  4. I won’t do Foxtel, they can forget that. I won’t use itunes either, I despise Apple’s business model. I will buy the disks of anthing I want to watch that I can’t get here, usually I’ll import them. For example, The Newsroom comes to me via Amazon.

    Still, HBO is a business like any other, they can sell to who they want and restrict viewing to who they want, and if they want to restrict it people will just download it free. If you want moronic exclusivity, they only way to “legally” watch The Daily Show in Australia is on frigging Murdoch (ok, that’s both moronic and ironic at the same time). Put it back on the ABC!!!

  5. You could get it on Foxtel Play for $50 / month rather than the full $47 + $25 / month. It’s still more per month than you’d pay for the full season on DVD / Blu-ray though. Foxtel’s content just isn’t worth it.

  6. Just seems the consumer is getting kicked in the guts once again. Like DRM in games making a huge mess of things. Remember the guys who made Galactic Civilizations, a small company with a small budget to make part II of the game and then announced that they won’t be having any restrictions like DRM, or installing on one machine ( and who wanted to reward the cosumer not punish them.
    Anyway they hit record sales and while bringing in an eight-figure revenue (
    Anyway sorry for getting side tracked to the subject :)

  7. Well, just to add insult to injury, I noticed last week that the DVDs of season 1 & 2 were about 60% higher at JB HiFi than before Christmas.

  8. The only reason I endured the last season was that I had watched the series till then.
    I wasn’t going back for the next season so big deal.
    If I liked the show of course I would be a little upset however I just thought it started to get too boring.

  9. A pyrrhic victory for Foxtel at best.

    For the rest of us, it’s just another failing of government to enact better legislation to prevent such anti competitive behaviour.

    • Wasn’t there a recommendation from a government body, that Australians should make use of various ways to bypass geoblocking?
      So… which US sites can you legally stream GoT from?

    • Come on dude, that’s not anti-competitive. That’s two private parties entering into a contract with the fruits of their resources and production.

      People could have made competitive bids to HBO. People can make a competitive TV show that blows GOT out of the water. People can compete with TV altogether and get them to just buy and read ASOIAF instead.

      The fact that you (and I) would prefer the aforementioned contract agreement not to have occurred, or to have been a different contract, is not at all a justification to bring in the strong-arm of the government into this – not unless you are happy for other people that don’t like the contracts you enter into privately to meddle with your affairs as well.

      • ” That’s two private parties entering into a contract with the fruits of their resources and production. “…which is is the very definition of monopoly/anticompetitive…

    • HBO don’t really care about that. They get their money from the licensing that Foxtel pays. It doesn’t really matter to them whether people actually watch it on Foxtel or not.

  10. It’s worth mentioning that Foxtel have sadly wrangled this for all HBO shows, not just Game of Thrones (although that’s admittedly the big fish). True Detective isn’t on iTunes at the moment.

    Also, I think this debate really needs to clarify how our situation differs to the US and what change we’re actually seeking. The way some articles and comments cover the issue, you’d think Americans have a variety of options to watch or download Game of Thrones and that the price is far cheaper than Australia. (Not this article per se – the following is more a response to overall coverage and discussion of this issue, which we’ve all seen.)

    But it’s not. It’s only available on HBO, which costs $15-20 extra on top of a roughly $40 basic cable package. Buying Showtime will cost you the same amount extra again. And these shows aren’t available on iTunes. To stream them, you need a subscription.

    So it’s not that different to what we have here, yet I suspect that what motivates some piracy here is the assumption that the content is way cheaper in the US. What actually differs is that with multiple cable providers in the US, consumers can shop around for a good deal while we are slave to whatever prices Foxtel sets.

    So what exactly do we want? People complain on every comments page they can, but frequently incorrectly, saying how much cheaper Netflix is (which doesn’t carry HBO shows) or that Foxtel are screwing us over for offering a similar payment model to the US. We actually share a grievance with the US, where there are growing calls for HBO to be offered as a separate streaming service. They don’t have it great either, but cable penetration is far higher and more culturally ingrained.

    I think that what we can reasonably ask for is a significant price reduction for Foxtel (especially with the volume of ads on non-premium channels) and/or less packaging that makes Showcase more affordable. We could also demand government restrictions on exclusive content deals like this so competitors like FetchTV actually have a chance to acquire HBO-style content to generate the competition between providers that the US has. Complaining that we should be able to only download the shows we want is asking for a global paradigm shift, not just in Australia.

    I hate this situation too and can’t bring myself to pay that much for Foxtel, but more of us need to stop wishing for TV paradise and focus on the specific problems of this provider if we want to build towards a more consumer-friendly, legitimate future for quality TV in Australia, and coverage needs to spell out more clearly how we’re being disadvantaged in a global context.

    • I now see that the SMH and Lifehacker are acknowledging in their articles today that HBO made the choice to sell the content exclusively and that they are similarly restrictive in other territories. Granted, it makes the situation even more depressing, but at least it’s helping to paint a clearer picture.

    • Mostly agree, but a few things:

      Because of the infrastructure based monopolies, it’s rare to have more than two paytv providers in an area: a cable company and a dish company, eg Cox and DirecTV. There might be one other option? It’s competition, but only in the sense that Australia has a choice of Foxtel or Optus, and in the past had Foxtel Satellite services being a separate company.

      Some shows are available on itunes/Amazon as a season pass type deal, but not all. You know how you stream HBO shows in the US? You pay for HBO via a paytv provider, and then use a HBOGo online account.

      $125/month for the right packages to get GoT in Australia? That’s basically as affordable as paying 60-80/month in the US for a similar thing. You know, because in most parts of the US, the cost of living (ie wages) is about half of Australia.

      No-one is going to pay for Foxtel just for one TV show. Which is why I think the totally exclusive thing is a bit silly. But if you’re already a customer of Foxtel, surely the draw is you don’t have to pay extra for this show, because you essentially get it for free? ie, even a one week exclusive showing before it is available elsewhere (even if ‘elsewhere’ is only paid options, ie no FTA TV) would be considered a bargain for anyone who has Foxtel, and may be enough coercion to buy the extra package if you didn’t already have it.

      What we’d really need to know to make this story interesting, tho’, Renai, is the number of itunes season pass customers in Australia for last year. Then we can look at whether it’s significant compared to the number of torrent users, and whether HBO are likely to care (I mean, money is money, but if they lose 5k customers, and get fat wads of cash from Foxtel? )

  11. The real insult to injury here, is you need to get the top package from Foxtel (which includes “Premium Movies and Drama” ) to get the Showcase channel that carries HBO shows.

    At $124 a month.

    So $1488 a year to watch GoT….

    • What? $1500 a year to watch Game of Thrones? I consider this to be most excellent news. Why not make it $3000 a year? Why not $4500? The Sky’s (pun intended) the limit.

      In fact, the only surprise here is that no one has commented: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” so far.

      I remember how The Daily Show became unavailable because of FOXTEL. A simple X-Forwarded-For: in my HTTP headers fixed that. And every time FOXTEL pulls a stunt like this, it’s costing them more than they’d ever get in new subscribers, so I’m really considering this to be most excellent news.

      Where’s an ASCII champagne bottle when you need one? Where are the Unicode fireworks? This is beautiful news, and I celebrate a little each time I hear something like this.

      Injury? Insult? Please. Let’s tone down the rhetoric and call a spade a spade. HBO has made sure that they’re going to get enough money from FOXTEL for a stunt like this, so the only losers are those, in the long run, at FOXTEL. And it’s pretty :)

    • So looking at all the actual copyright infringement cases against individuals that have ever made it all the way through the court system its actually cheaper to download it unlawfully (and not illegally Renai… yeah its a pedantic bugbear of mine) than to actually pay any money to Foxtel or HBO

      So of course “I shall pay a huge amount of money to Foxtel for the privilege of this exclusivity and always abide by the Copyright Act”

      Said NO ONE EVER!

  12. I don’t blame Foxtel,

    I blame HBO for accepting the deal.

    Remember; just because Foxtel had a truckload of cash; it doesn’t mean they should accept it.

  13. A pay TV provider sells exclusive rights to a pay TV provider. Outrageous. I suppose we’ll all have to hope foxtel play works.

  14. At this point there’s no use getting worked up. Piracy will continue to increase, HBO / Foxtel will probably continue to lose money, and eventually these laughably outdated content distribution models will die. Until they do, we’re still perfectly able to watch the show through certain “convenient” avenues.

    • and by “convenient” avenues you mean popping your head over the fence and watching the neighbours TV who have Foxtel right? :)

      • An elaborate contraption involving mirrors and binoculars and a friend in the US, actually. Your way might work too.

        • Mirrors? Binoculars? You kids don’t know how easy you’ve got it. Why, back in my day we had to make do with old toilet rolls and buffed up tinfoil…

  15. Being HBO it will likely be canned before completing the series anyhow. Not to mention that the actual books are far from complete. I watched the first season, was inspired to read the books, realised how incomplete the series was, and couldn’t bring myself to bother with the second season. Solution to piracy? make it boring so noone downloads it anymore :)
    Perhaps Delimiter could write a chart showing ETA of final GoT book/Show, versus FTTN,CBN

    … year 2027, the old HBO show Game of Thrones, was picked up by another network, for the filming of the nearly completed book series, with a digital distribution model.
    Australians still miss out because all official sources of the show are only available in 4k video, which although accessible to 19% of the population on the finally completed CBN, wipes out their monthly download limits.

  16. You don’t think Rupert is going to use the torrent surge to ask for some deep packet inspection and associated crackdown?

  17. Disappointed, I was hoping to stream this on Quickflix (I know it would have cost money) at least around the time the series ends. I’ll wait for the DVDs if I have to, though avoiding spoilers on the internet is pretty tough, so I was hoping for a legitimate path that doesn’t involve a huge sum of money to Foxtel.

    Though what’s interesting to me is that this model keeps going. Pay a fair some of money for a bunch of content you won’t ever watch in order to then pay extra for a few premium subscriptions that will occasionally have shows from overseas that you do want to watch. It’s interesting because the anti-piracy rhetoric is based around the idea of content you do want not getting paid for, but in order to get the content you want, you have to pay for a huge amount of content you don’t. It doesn’t seem at that point like we are supporting what we want, but supporting a very wasteful system with huge overhead. Foxtel is just injecting themselves between the legitimate content creators (such as HBO, Showtime, AMC, etc.) and the Australian consumer. Yet Foxtel isn’t using the money for making original context, just to profit as a middleman who could easily be replaced thanks to the Internet. I’d be happy to pay for HBO directly if I could, but my mid-2000s idealism about the future of the Internet and TV content has turned to cynicism. This system seems like it won’t go away any time soon. Indeed, I tend to think that as soon as it’s feasible to start punishing downloaders, the system is going to just get worse.

  18. For those saying foxtel is $100 a month, look at the telstra foxtel option as it works out a lot cheaper than buying from foxtel directly

  19. You know, from HBO’s point of view this is a pretty smart move. They get a truckload of cash from a country that historically pirates a crap load. The only person really losing out here is foxtel, buying up property that people won’t pay for.

  20. Foxtel can suck my fat, I’ll download via iTunes or failing that channel BT. Certainly would not waste 60-100 a mth on Foxtel. Paying a premium for the privilege of watching the most repetitive ads in the screen medium.

  21. Buy Netflix at $8 per month. No adds latest tv show and movies. Screw foxtel and telstra.

  22. Typical.

    I’ll just buy the DVD at the end of the series and sideload into iTunes.

    Bugger em.

    • The fact that the Pirate Party achieved more than 1000 votes at the Griffith by-election recently, attaining fourth position may be another reason perhaps?
      Their policies not just on digital rights, but also on diverse issues such as saving the Great Barrier Reef, civil liberties, an Australian Bill of Rights, freedom of speech, marriage equality and asylum seeker welfare are all things that Abbott is clearly against.
      He’d be wanting to squash them before they get any more popular I’d imagine.

      • Just keep an eye out for secret funds set up to dig up dirt and push for flimsy prosecutions, as happened with the not-so-lamented Pauline Hanson and friends.

    • Once again, if you haven’t seen the information recently uncovered regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership’s Intellectual Property Chapter:

      ““Australian consumers have been betrayed,” says Dr Matthew Rimmer, Associate Professor at the ANU College of Law. “The intellectual property chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a monster. The proposals in respect of copyright law, trademark law, patent law, and data protection would hit Australian consumers hard.
      “The Trans-Pacific Partnership undermines Australian efforts to take substantive policy action in respect of IT pricing. The agreement does nothing to further efforts to reform copyright exceptions in Australia. The agreement threatens consumer rights, privacy, and internet freedom.”

      DFAT to media: you’re “ineligible” to attend TPP briefings

      The Australian government seems like it isn’t too keen on TPP negotiations hitting the headlines. In late October 2013, technology journalist Josh Taylor of ZDNet told CHOICE he was barred from attending a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) briefing on the TPP negotiations, despite the fact that his RSVP had previously been confirmed.

      Read more:

  23. I’m betting Rupert is preparing his plastic raincoat with the holes cut in the pockets for when the ABC/BBC contract finishes in a few months time. Two words Dr. Who.

    • The thought of that is enough to give me nightmares. For a number of reasons as I’m sure you can well imagine.

  24. This just explains why Rupert was willing to put all his resources behind a government willing to scrap the NBN. And why that government will never legislate to make things like geo-blocking legal.

    • Nawwww diddums. Usually free to air snaps up all the latest shows and then ruins them with ads. Or takes a break halfway through the season to show some crap show. Or cuts shows into bits to extend the season. Rupert didn’t have to put all his resources behind the liberal party for them to win. Labor lost the election all on their own with no policies and a spendthrift mentality, racking up Australia’s largest ever debt. Only the diehards like you voted for them. With 5G not far off why sink billions into wired internet. 5G will be just as fast as the nbn. People want fast internet wherever they are, not wait till they get home. Wake up, the nbn is old tech. Get over it. Are you going to pay over $100 a month for the highest speed and small download limit?? I’d rather pay that for 5G and use it anywhere I want.

      • “Rupert didn’t have to put all his resources behind the liberal party for them to win.”
        Well, yes he did.

        And he had a serious panic attack when GetUp started running their anti-Murdoch ad (“Thanks Rupert, but we’ll decide our own election”). Airtime that was already paid for on commercial TV stations (and the ads accepted and played a few times) in Sydney and Brisbane was withdrawn; expensive ads for Foxtel appeared on Fairfax websites but Fairfax refused to run the GetUp ad (‘though they did run part of it in an article).

        It’s funny, but predictable, what cash-strapped media outlets will do for large sums of money. Even companies which claim to be: Independant. Always. As Renai’s article shows, Foxtel has lots of money to spend protecting their investments.

        “racking up Australia’s largest ever debt”? That would be the LNP since the September election.
        Diehards? Hmm…Rudeness doesn’t make a point stronger.
        As for your 5G comments…………. Given the readership of this site,…. what can I say?

      • If NBN is that old and 5G is as close as you say, then why would they waste time and money on putting in an already obsolete FTTN network? 5G will be left to the service providers to distribute and trust me, they will extort every cent they can from anyone wanting down speeds that the rest of the world call “Okay”. If Murdoch hadn’t funded most of the Liberal party’s advertising and paying reporters to dig out the Labor party while covering their own arses the election may well have gone either way.

  25. Does anyone know or have experience of a Roku box to obtain GoT series and how much it would cost?

  26. I could never watch Foxtel after they started with ads, and there is no way I will support Murdoch and his crapocracy – yep HBO has lost me – I’ll buy the DVD. Foxtel will go broke and we’ll all be online. Cable is dying and this is its last gasp.

  27. I refuse to sign up to a subscription television service that has advertising during their programs, in Australia people used to watch Foxtel because you didn’t have ads interrupting your program, now it is worse than free to air television which relies almost exclusively on advertising for funds.
    Add to that the fact that you have to subscribe not only to their basic plan, but to an additional premium plan to be able to watch 8-10, 55 minute episodes WITH ADS over a space of 2-3 months when you payed for 12 or 24.

    $75~ * 12 = 900 + 100~(installation if you don’t already have a system) $1000AUD for a season of Game of Thrones (Cos I certainly won’t watch any of the other American re-run crap they like to show all day every day on every other one of their channels.)
    OR I can wait a year and get it on blu-ray for $70~
    OR I can Bit torrent it days after it’s airing in the states and on Foxtel and watch it for free…

    I know what I am choosing, it doesn’t take a fool to remember that there has never been one legal case against piracy in Australia, so I will take the free option in my own little piece of FUCK YOU HBO AND FOXTEL! :)

  28. Boo to Foxtel and HBO. We’ll wait. That way we can watch each episode back to back over a few days and be absolutely exhausted, rather than have to wait a whole week in anticipation for a small morsel of television.

  29. Fuck you. Foxtel.

    I have been using channel BT simce GoT started in season 1. And was hoping for a decent deal to eventually come out in Oz. Instead, it gets sucked up by the Murdochcracy, machiavellian style. Too bad we killed iTunes for this.

    *Extremely disappointed in how we do our business dealings*

  30. LOL, well fuck you then….’illegal’ downloads it is then. yep, that’s right and right now I don’t give a shit, so FUCK OFF Foxtel.

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