Digital Life

Are you ready to binge on Game of Thrones?

As Foxtel screens the final episode, online rivals are lining up to offer Australians all of Game of Thrones Season 4 in one hit.

In years gone by, online video services like Apple's iTunes and Quickflix have offered each episode of Game of Thrones for sale the morning after they've screened on Foxtel. This year Foxtel struck a new deal with HBO to offer exclusive Australian access to Game of Thrones. Online rivals weren't allowed to even offer the first episode until Foxtel had finished screening the entire series. Today is the big day, with the season finale screening in the US around lunchtime and on Foxtel this afternoon.

So now it's run on Foxtel, where else can Australians watch Game of Thrones Season 4? Quickflix says it will have all ten episodes online Tuesday morning, just after midnight, as pay-per-view – not as part of the all-you-can-eat library. Google Australia is reluctant to talk about it until tomorrow, but sources tell me that Google Play will also offer all of Season 4 tomorrow. EzyFlix doesn't expect to have it available tomorrow but it's likely to offer it further down the track.

Meanwhile Apple doesn't want to talk about Game of Thrones at all, suggesting that I "reach out to the content owners directly", which is about what I expected from Apple. Australian distributor Warner Bros doesn't want to talk about it today either, but that fact that other Australian video services are offering Season 4 tomorrow indicates that if Apple holds out it's less because of rights issues and more because it wants to express its dissatisfaction with the Foxtel deal.

Don't get your hopes up about sneaking into Netflix to watch Game of Thrones, as the US streaming giant offers very little content from arch rival HBO.

So was Foxtel's Game of Thrones strategy a success? It depends on how you look at it. If the aim was to win over viewers from online rivals then I'm sure it made some headway, with some iTunes and Quickflix customers finally conceding defeat and signing up for Foxtel Play or a home Foxtel subscription. The Foxtel Play discount certainly sweetened the deal and Foxtel will be hoping that customers stick around once Game of Thrones is over and the price goes up.

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But if Foxtel's aim was to win Australians back from piracy then I'd say it was a flop. For every new customer that Foxtel picked up from iTunes or Quickflix, I'm sure it drove at least one other person to BitTorrent so they could watch the show week-by-week rather than trying to avoid spoilers for ten weeks.

Spurred by the Game of Thrones BitTorrent frenzy, the government is preparing to crackdown on online piracy – not that a crackdown will achieve much when there are so many ways to pirate content. To quote Google, piracy is primarily a pricing and availability issue. If the government really wants to tackle piracy it should be cracking down on these kinds of content deals which make it harder for Australians to do the right thing.

Rather than confronting the powerful copyright lobby and actually striking a better deal for Australians, the government is determined to put the interests of Hollywood first and embark on a futile anti-piracy crusade. In the eyes of Attorney-General George Brandis and Co, the copyright debate is all about punishing wrongdoers rather than actually sticking up for the rights of Australians. I'm sure King Joffrey would approve of such pig-headedness.

Have your abstained from Game of Thrones for 10 weeks? Where will you get your fix now the floodgates are open?

UPDATE: Why isn't Game of Thrones on Apple's iTunes?

Read more posts from Adam Turner's Gadgets on the Go blog.

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