Advanced Television

Foxtel defends Game of Thrones exclusivity

April 10, 2014

By Colin Mann

game-of-thronesFollowing the revelation that Australia leads the list of countries illegally sharing the Season Four première of Game of Thrones, and in response to criticism of its exclusive first-run rights to the show, Bruce Meagher, director of corporate affairs for Foxtel, has defended the Australian pay-TV operator’s business model.

Writing an opinion piece on Australian media and marketing and entertainment website Mumbrella, Meagher notes that much has been made in the past few days of the fact that fans of Game of Thrones are unable to acquire the series through services other than Foxtel until after the final episode airs. “Unfortunately, there has also been much misinformation about how Foxtel is making Game of Thrones available to the public,” he contends. “The criticisms relate both to price and the Foxtel business model. Some even conclude that unauthorised downloading is justified because of these objections. As KGB commented in relation to a recent Mumbrella story, that’s like justifying stealing a Ferrari on the basis that the waiting list is too long or the price is too high (maybe it’s because you don’t want all of the features). You only have to state the proposition to realise how absurd it is,” he argues.

According to Meagher, another argument that is sometimes made is that you’re only making a digital copy, not actually stealing an object. “Try telling that to the actors, extras, writers, camera crew, make up artists, editors, special effects teams and the many others who make Game of Thrones. The artistry and skill they bring to the production has real value and deserves to be rewarded,” he says.

He says that Foxtel recognises the need to be flexible to meet consumers’ reasonable expectations as to speed of access and pricing. “That’s where [streaming service] Foxtel Play comes in. Foxtel Play is the best comparison to iTunes and similar services,” he advises. “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. Because we air each episode Express from the US you can sign up and be watching within a couple of hours of its US broadcast.”

He notes that all episodes of Games of Thrones Season 4 (plus 2 and 3) will be available in the catch-up library for the duration of the series and can be viewed as often as users want, with newcomers able to get up to speed with past episodes. As a special Game of Thrones offer, Foxtel Play including the Movies and Premium Drama Pack is available for $35 per month for the duration of the series, with the first 14 days free to new subscribers.

“For that price you also get a range of other channels and programmes, including past seasons of Game of Thrones and other exceptional dramas such as True Detective, Girls, True Blood, Boadwalk Empire, access to around 1,000 movie titles and much more,” he announces.

“Of course some people say they don’t care about all of that, they only want the most recent episodes of Game of Thrones. However, HBO has decided that is not the way they intend to sell this season either here on in the United States,” he explains. “As the content creator and risk taker on the show, they are entitled to make those commercial decisions. As I have said elsewhere, dragons don’t come cheap.”

“If consumers’ only choice was full Foxtel, with lock in contracts and a delay in access due to the need to get installed (a fantastic service by the way for people who love great television) I could understand the objection. But with Foxtel Play available those objections vanish. What we are left with is an argument at the margins about a few dollars. Yet 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,” he concludes.

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