The battle against piracy continues

Torrent Freak has reported that the season finale of HBO’s Game of Thrones set a new piracy record. This will not be good news to content owners as digital piracy continues to threaten their business models.

The statistics are astounding.  Torrent Freak reported that

  • 171,572 people were active on a single active torrent downloading the episode; and
  • within 24 hours of the season finale broadcast, the episode had been downloaded a million times.

The disturbing news for Australian content owners, is that it appears the highest download rates of the episode were in Australia (despite the small population compared with the US and the UK).

US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey Bleich made clear his views towards piracy earlier in the year (when discussing the number of Australians illegally downloading Game of Thrones), when he said:

“Buying a book in store costs more and takes longer than stealing it from your neighbour’s house, but we all know it is the right thing to do and allows authors to make a living and write more books.”

Digital piracy is tantamount to stealing. While consumers have argued that content has been held back by networks or not made available on enough platforms and therefore downloading is the only option – these arguments no longer have the same weight.

Games of Thrones is a good example of a high quality international series that is available to Australian consumers across multiple platforms within hours of its initial broadcast in the US. Viewers in Australia can watch Game of Thrones via Foxtel, Quickflix and on iTunes.

Foxtel broadcast the most recent series under its ‘express from the US’ banner, meaning it was broadcast within hours of its US broadcast. While the show is only available to Foxtel’s Showcase subscribers, Foxtel has to be able to try and attract new consumers by making first-run content only available on certain subscriber tiers.  The season final episode of Game of Thrones (in two broadcasts on Showcase on June 10) secured 130,000 and 114,000 viewers, ranking the broadcasts as the 4th and 6th most-watched show on the subscription-TV platform for that day.

For those who do not have Foxtel, the episodes are available for download on iTunes and on Quickflix. Consumers can no longer complain that content is not available on multiple platforms or (at least with Foxtel) is not available as soon as possible after its original broadcast overseas.

While it does appear that more consumers are paying for content, the reported high number of downloaders in the Australian market (and worldwide) is still alarming. New initiatives such as Foxtel making available the entire season of Netflix’s House of Cards for instant download on Foxtel on Demand is a sign that content owners are continuing to innovate and meet consumer needs, which will hopefully reduce illegal download rates.

The battle for content owners is not over. Maybe the next step in Australia is for the free-to-air TV networks and Foxtel to agree to an Australian Hulu, where each content provider receives revenue and branding for each of their shows made available on the catch-up platform.


Games of Thrones Season Finale Sets New Piracy Record

MediaWeek Morning Report – 11 June 2013

US ambassador Jeffrey Bleich pleads: Australia, stop pirating Game of Thrones


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