There was no surprise around the news that Game of Thrones had, once again, broken torrent records with the premiere episode of season four.
What was surprising was that, according to Torrentfeak, Australia accounted for, making us the number one GoT downloaders in the world, up from number three.
Many people have attributed this jump to the fact that Foxtel has the exclusive rights for this season — the episodes can't be aired or sold anywhere else in Australia until the full season is over. This has prompted more than a few complaints from GoT fans who aren't subscribing to or otherwise accessing Foxtel.
Over on media industry website Mumbrella, Foxtel's director of corporate affairs Bruce Meagher has written a response to both GoT pirates and people who he sees as defending GoT torrentors:
Unfortunately, there has also been much misinformation about how Foxtel is making Game of Thrones available to the public. The criticisms relate both to price and the Foxtel business model. Some even conclude that unauthorised downloading is justified because of these objections.
The crux of Meagher's argument is that Game of Thrones is available on the Foxtel Play streaming service, saying "it takes a few minutes to sign up and there are no lock in contracts so customers are free to come and go on a month to month basis".
People wanting to join Play specifically for Game of Thrones can get the special deal of AU$35 per month with 14 days free.
Many commenters on the Mumbrella article have taken issue with Meagher's thesis, noting that even at the special rates, the ten episode run of Game of Thrones means one would need to use play for a three month run, costing AU$105. This compares to the AU$33.95 for the HD version of Season 3 on iTunes.
People were also vocally disappointed that Foxtel wouldn't allow users to just buy the Game of Thrones episodes, instead needing a subscription package that included other shows. One commenter using the handle "Hungry" compared it to trying to buy an Hawaiian pizza, but being forced to buy a more expensive supreme and being told that the ham, cheese and pineapple were all present anyway.
The other main complaint was that Play doesn't deliver content in HD.
While Foxtel may be encountering some bad press around its Game of Thrones 'lock down', the deal is likely to be highly successful and lucrative for the company.
It's also pretty much what HBO is doing in the US — Game of Thrones isn't on iTunes or Netflix there, either. You need a premium cable subscription to watch it. That's possibly why the Foxtel deal appealed to HBO.
Meagher signs off his Mumbrella piece with the following:
[...] some people still feel that they should be entitled to take this show for free without the consent of its creators rather than pay a reasonable price for an extraordinary product. The Lannisters may not be a pleasant lot, but they, at least, always pay their debts.