The upside of the illegal download

Tonight thousands of Australian Foxtel customers are left high and dry because their infrastructure could not handle the demand of people wanting to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones. Tech savvy downloaders are having a right chuckle. Can you blame them?

The Night King from Game of Thrones stands in front of his army

Foxtel posted an apology message on their Facebook page stating they are 'devastated' by the outage.
I can appreciate that a network who purchases the rights to a show wants to present that show with utmost exclusivity. However until they decide to upgrade their business models and get with the times they deserve to be fucked over by people who would otherwise be their consumers. Less legal alternatives remain way too easy, regardless of their best efforts to prevent them.

The people will always find a way.

I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say that I have never illegally downloaded a movie or TV program, but I have accepted files from people who have. I have also taken the VPN route and bypassed geoblocking to get content in a more timely fashion but a lot of companies have quite successfully put the lid back on that box. Can you blame me though? Especially when shows I love like The Expanse take for-fucking-ever to land on our shores.

My preference is to ultimately support the people who are creating the shows I want to watch, but it’s also my preference not to suffer at the hands of networks who don’t evolve with the times. There’s a couple of really clear examples of how messed up this can be.

In Australia we have commercial networks who purchase shows and then tinker with programming schedules to the point where they become unwatchable because you have no idea when they are screening, even if advertised. I experienced this with Battlestar Galactica, where it was almost impossible to predict when an episode was going to show up on Network 10 over here. It moved networks several times and I should also add that is was about a season behind before Foxtel’s SyFy network picked it up and started beaming it “fresh off the satellite” in the final season or two.

It could probably, albeit anecdotally, said that the fact that Battlestar Galactica was one of the most downloaded shows of all time only really helped its popularity in the later seasons. Funnily enough, the commercial networks pulled the same shit with Caprica when it debuted, I had no idea what time it was on by episode three and waited until much later to binge watch on Netflix.

Could this be the same for Game of Thrones? If the amount of illegal downloads equates to popularity could this potentially drive the market value of the show higher? Probably not these days because all you need to do is a breakdown of social media trends to see that it is all anyone will be talking about tonight. The people who make Game of Thrones may not give two shits as to how people access it so long as they have sold it to the highest bidder well in advance.

Thanks to the pirates of old though, we now find ourselves in a world where we don’t have to wait for months after the US release to see movies we’re anticipating and we do get these shows, if they’re popular enough, at the same time. We also find ourselves in a place where, because of advances in the internet and the rise of social media, we run the risk of seeing a spoiler every time we look at our phones. Thus driving the overwhelming desire to see it first coupled with the fear of missing out syndrome (FOMO).

This brings me to my love hate relationship with Foxtel. I broke up with Foxtel years ago, we decided to see other networks. If anyone has tried to break up with Foxtel they’ll relate to how painful that can be.

Up until very recently Foxtel was outrageously expensive compared to current providers. Because they were first and foremost modelled on a pay tv service they have recently found themselves drowning in a sea of streaming services and desperately playing catch up. They launched Foxtel now, adjusted their pricing schedule and relaunched with basically a new paintjob but the same technical infrastructure under the hood.

This new sexy pricing has seen us get back together, but we’re in a much more open relationship now.

They have almost got it right too. Almost. But now as Foxtel looks to be in demand because of Game of Thrones I find my loyalty being tested again.

Right now, in between writing this article, I’m trying to log in to Foxtel Now and receiving a “service unavailable” message because it’s prime time and everybody and their dog wants to watch Game Of Thrones. I’ve even tried the app and to watch it on my phone but that glitches out and crashes every time I log in.


A list of complaints from Foxtel Help's twitter feed.

Foxtel Help’s Twitter feed from 9:30pm 17 July

Foxtel have been working hard behind the scenes to combat illegal downloads. About a fortnight ago Foxtel extended its list of targeted domain names to include an additional 73 that were associated with The Pirate Bay and Torrentz, upping their total list to 128. This basically involves them serving court orders to internet service providers (ISPs) to implement DNS blocks on those sites, preventing customers of those Australian ISPs accessing them. I can imagine given we’re going through the legal system here that it is not a cheap undertaking and quite frankly pointless as anyone with a bit of skill can figure a way around it.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the service providers actually spent some effort trying to serve their paying customers rather than chasing down pirates and trying to block them via ISPs? Surely if they focused providing a primo service with robust servers at a competitive price it would make piracy far less of a problem for them than it is now.

Instead of investing in their customers, they to just want to be first. First to purchase the rights and first to stop anyone else from stealing the content they are the owner for in that region.

Last to give a fuck about providing a quality delivery method for that content and the people who want to do the right thing.

That’s why people download, and I’m happy for them to do it if it eventually makes the networks pull their heads out of their arses and deliver content in more reliable and accessible ways.

But like Jon Snow, I know nothing.

Meme of Game of Thrones character saying "You know nothing Jon Snow".

1 Comment on The upside of the illegal download

  1. Beware the person(corporation) who would deny you information for in their hearts they see themselves your master


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