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CNET Australia Podcast

Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

About The Author

CNET Editor

Seamus Byrne is the Editor of CNET Australia. At other times he'll be found messing with apps, watching TV, building LEGO, and rolling dice. Usually at the same time.

Byrne Notice

In the digital Game of Thrones, does anyone win?

It seems like Australia stands alone in the iTunes universe, earning access to Game of Thrones season two while it still breathes on TV screens worldwide. It's an almost-perfect move to keep fans off the torrents. Almost...

At first, it came as a shock. Browsing the Australian iTunes Store, the second season of Game of Thrones was right there, promoted front and centre. No, it's not a false launch like last time, seeding previews and behind-the-scenes footage instead of delivering on the goods. This is the real thing.

HBO's decision to only distribute the first season a single month before the second hit screens received the online ridicule it deserved. The Oatmeal summed it up nicely; you could search every available avenue to pay real money to own a digital copy, but no one was selling. They just didn't want your money. The torrential downpour was inevitable.

So here now is the second season, less than two weeks behind the US broadcasts (available in line with broadcasts on Foxtel's Showtime) — a pleasant surprise.

Curious; a look at the US iTunes Store uncovered an interesting difference. It was simply unavailable. HBO maintains its blackout in the USA, while allowing some latitude in other territories. No, wait. Not "other territories". Just Australia.

Some exploration of a wide range of iTunes destinations (searching the USA, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and others) seems to show that Australia may be alone in this digital availability.

So is this perhaps some kind of test? Can one of the world's biggest per capita file-sharing nations be brought to heel through a positive step forward in timely availability? What seems to have been missed is that you don't win the throne by half measures. And in this game, as fans well know, you win or you die.

For AU$28.99, you can have Game of Thrones season two in Standard Definition.

But no High Definition is available.

It is hard to imagine the meetings where such decisions are made. Does withholding HD somehow push owners of big, full HD screens to dial up Foxtel for an HD subscription package? Does it make them begrudgingly accept the lesser-quality copy? Or does it send them elsewhere? Back over The Wall to the wastelands with the wildlings, where unsanitary downloads await?

This was so close to being a solid win for digital audiences. The scent of a future where well-reasoned, rational content distribution prevails.

To hold back on HD is a decision so nuanced it feels like a scheme worthy of Casterly Rock.

Will they sell more by selling twice? SD digital now, then HD later? Or will they, yet again, sell less than they should by defending something that only the distributors can see? Then point and cry, "See? We gave you your downloads, and you still didn't want to pay!"

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esther434 posted a comment   

Thank you for explaining iTunes insanity. We kept trying to buy it and couldn't understand why it showed only in the Australian iTunes which, by the way, we can't purchase being in another country. They want you to be hooked onto something but they they play favorites. For the first time in my life, I can see why piracy takes place. iTunes and HBO could have prevented this. This is their game of thrones.


kalval posted a comment   

One show isn't enough to stem the tide of torrents. Nobody is going to embrace a locked down system like itunes for a single show. The people that download torrents like to have all their shows in one place so that they can be played on PCs, or from PCs to televisions or media centres. I for example use windows media player/centre to play all of my shows which are well organised into one large library so that I can immediately access any show via remote control.

There is no way I am going to install a program like itunes and have to use a mouse and keyboard on my media centre to start up itunes (horribly unoptimised on windows, poorer sound quality than media player on my high end speakers, only SD videos available) to access a separate library that only has one show (which I cannot move between devices like normal files).

We so badly need a digital distribution system here in Australia. Looking at the Zune USA store (which has pretty much every tv show I can think of released on time for reasonable prices - google and itunes probably have similar products), I realise that this is the sort of thing we need to appeal to people who would otherwise pirate content - a system where all content is in one place, easily accessible across multiple devices (in the case of zune on the PC, TV (through xbox), phone).

I realise, however, that this is unlikely to happen for most TV programs - the tv channels appear to have way too much power here. Being able to show a program 6 months late with no legal way for viewer to watch it before this is ridiculous, avoiding spoilers on the internet over this time can be quite difficult.

I expect that the only reason the networks haven't kicked up a fuss about this show is that it's relatively unprofitable as it can't be shown during prime time due to its rating.



Chandler posted a comment   

What buying about episode by episode?

Oh, and what about the non-iTunes users... or does the US think that the only smartphones/tables/media streamers used/available in Australia are their iPhones/iPads/AppleTVs ... yeah, probably.

I agree with Jive - this won't stop the pirates. SD now for $30 vs HD in 2 weeks for free. They need to release HD quality for a fair price at the same time.

They also need to release it on more than just iTunes. I'd suggest Google Play, but that's not available in Australia for movies or music.

Oh, and don't get me started on DRM...


Jive Turkey posted a comment   

This won't stop people pirating it. If people are currently getting a higher quality product two weeks faster for free, the idea of paying for a lower quality product and being two weeks behind is not going to be attractive.

If HBO and other networks want to defeat piracy, they have to provide a better service than the pirates.

At least it's an improvement for the non-pirates.

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