Trusty sidekick ... Watson (Martin Freeman) is loyal to Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch).

Will Foxtel's grip on foreign dramas drive subscriptions, or simply drive more people to piracy?

I know it's hard to believe, but Australians are actually pretty spoilt when it comes to what we can watch on free-to-air television. Many of the Fox and HBO shows we take for granted are locked away on cable subscription services in the US. Of course practically every home in the US subscribes to a cheap basic cable service and it's an ingrained part of their viewing culture. Pay TV remains an expensive luxury in Australia, with Foxtel struggling to get into more than a third of Aussie homes.

As we all know, the downside of watching your favourite shows on Australia's free-to-air commercial networks is that the network programmers treat us with contempt. They deliberately start shows late, mess with the weekly schedule and cram in too many ads – driving Australian viewers to become some of the world's most prolific BitTorrent users. The series return of Game of Thrones broke global records in terms of illegal downloads and, per capita, Australians led the charge.

Unless you're a big fan of live sport, it's fairly hard for your average home to justify the expense of a Foxtel subscription. Foxtel has been working hard to improve its value proposition over the last few years, offering HD sport after the free-to-air networks abandoned it and also delivering a range of streaming services via internet-enabled TVs, games consoles and tablets.

Australia's anti-syphoning laws have ensured that important sporting events aren't locked away on Pay TV as they are overseas, but Foxtel has stepped up its fight for drama lovers by planning a new fast-tracked premium BBC channel to launch next year. It remains to be seen which programs are affected (Doctor Who seems safe), although the ABC's current deal with the BBC expires in the middle of next year so many programs will be up for grabs. Some BBC programs are also expected to disappear from Australia's commercial free-to-air networks. Once they're shown on the new Foxtel channel, these BBC programs won't be able to screen on Australian free-to-air networks for at least 12 months. 

Pay-per-view online alternatives such as iTunes and Quickflix offer legit alternatives to Australians who don't subscribe to Foxtel, although it seems Foxtel is moving to close these loopholes next year under the new rights agreements. Of course there's one massive loophole in the form of BitTorrent, depending on where you draw your moral line in the sand.

To win over more Australian homes, Foxtel needs to offer better value for money. One option is to make its plans more affordable, while another option is to lock away more content so people need to pay to watch their favourite shows. Wielding a big cheque book, Foxtel seems determined to go down the second path. 

Will you switch from the ABC to Foxtel to watch your favourite shows, or will you simply flick to the BitTorrent channel?