Entertainment TV Foxtel drops prices, tells pirates ‘you’re welcome’

Foxtel drops prices, tells pirates ‘you’re welcome’

Dangling Carrot Foxtel Game of Thrones
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On October 31, part News Corp-owned pay-TV provider Foxtel announced it was extending an agreement with US cable TV station HBO to continue exclusive supply of the latter’s premium TV to subscribers throughout Australia in 2015.

The extension of this deal covers all HBO content, including Game of Thrones, True DetectiveGirls and Looking.

· Foxtel slashes prices, but you’ll pay extra for ‘GoT’
· ‘Gogglebox’ set to hit Australian TV screens in 2015
· Seven unveils impressive 2015 TV line-up

HBO programming such as this, along with on-demand content and a large back-catalogue, will be available on Foxtel’s showcase channel, which comes at an additional price to the basic package.

Consumers don't want to be changed to a subscription just to watch Game of Thrones. Photo: HBO
Consumers don’t want to be chained to a subscription just to watch Game of Thrones. Photo: HBO

Surely Foxtel learned their lesson in 2014, when, after exclusive broadcast of the new season of Game of Thrones, it was announced that Australians were the show’s number one illegal downloaders, flipping a collective middle-finger salute to the media giant in the process.

Is the pay-TV network coming back for more of the same?

Step back

Before you furrow your brow in frustration at this seeming replay of 2014’s piracy shenanigans, the plot has thickened.

Are you sitting down? In a move that almost appears to sweeten the blow for those not currently subscribed to the service, Foxtel has also dropped its prices.

New packages start at $25 per month, which will get you access to an Entertainment package of 43 channels of news, entertainment and music.

But if you’re after the aforementioned premium television, you’ll need an additional Drama package, for an extra $20 per month, which includes six channels: showcase, BBC World and FX among them.

Basically, it will cost you $45 per month to watch some of the best premium TV that 2015 has to offer. Considering that rate used to be around the $75 per-month mark, this price reduction may attract viewers who previously pirated a TV series they weren’t prepared to pay for.

It’s almost as if someone at Foxtel has read The New Daily piece on streaming media services, which includes a statement from Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull saying, “the best thing you can do is to make content available globally, universally and affordably”.

Foxtel Photo: Shutterstock
To watch premium shows like Game of Thrones on Foxtel the minimum payment is $57.50 per month. Photo: Shutterstock

Read between the lines

Granted, the new pricing offers existing subscribers a better deal, but looking a little further into a 12-month contract reveals a different figure.

To watch Game of Thrones – or any of the other premium TV series on offer – will cost you $45 per month, plus a $75 connection fee, plus $75 for a Foxtel iQHD set-top box. That monthly figure has now become $57.50 per month.

There’s also one more caveat that HD TV owners will need to consider; an extra fee of $10 per month for a HD upgrade. Now we’re talking $67.50 per month.

Does that still sound attractive to you?

If recent developments in the government’s stance on internet piracy are anything to go by, it appears this may be Foxtel’s next/only play to pre-emptively stem the financial wounds inflicted by those lowly illegal downloaders.

Three strikes and you’re out, pirates

A recent update to the IP (internet protocol) chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) – as revealed on WikiLeaks, 16 October – indicates the power of the trade pact has now been muted substantially – from forcing ISPs (internet service providers) to enforce copyright holder’s rights and potentially issue penalties to users caught sharing copyrighted material online, to enacting a notice scheme (three strikes and you’re out) and disabling access to infringing material.

Shortly after these leaked findings were released Mr Turnbull stated, during an interview with the ABC, that the Australian government’s proposed data retention scheme – which will see telecommunications companies retain ‘metadata’ on customers for up to two years – will not aid in the apprehension of illegal downloaders.

“The government’s not going after people who infringe copyright online,” Mr Turnbull said.

“That is a matter for rights holders. Clearly we do not support infringing copyright anywhere [and] copyright should be protected.”

When questioned further on the powers of government agencies to use the collected material, Turnbull was adamant: “The AFP and ASIO and so forth frankly are not interested in whether you are illegally downloading a copy of Game of Thrones.”

“That is a bad thing to do, but I can tell you our national security agencies have got other things on their mind.”

A lost cause?

These events also come on the back of interesting figures released by the IP Awareness Foundation, which found in a recent survey that 29 per cent of Australian adults, aged 18 to 64, pirated television and movies. Considering our population, that’s roughly 6.7 million Australians.

In short, the conditions in the TPP covering IP enforcement appear to be progressively hamstrung, while Mr Turnbull has indicated the government is passing the buck to copyright holders to pursue rights enforcement directly with ISPs.

Meanwhile, ISPs are pushing back, indicating it’s not their responsibility to pursue copyright infringers, nor should they absorb the costs of doing so.

Foxtel, along with other content rights holders, have been sent a clear message. If you build it, they will come. Make content accessible in a timely manner, at an affordable price.

It may take another 12 months to determine whether Foxtel’s price drop was successful or not, but as an alternative to illegally obtaining copyrighted material, to state the obvious, it certainly is a better deal than any the company has previously offered.

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