Foxtel has itself to blame for Australians illegally downloading hit TV show Game of Thrones, consumer group Choice says.
The show was downloaded 1.5 million times in the 12 hours after the show went to air setting a new record for illegal downloads on Monday night, according to internet tracking site TorrentFreak.
This makes it the most pirated program in history and thousands of Australians were among those watching, according reports in the ABC.
Foxtel says about 500,000 Australians watch each episode via a paid subscription, while another half a million download it illegally, mostly by sharing episodes with other users through a process known as ‘torrenting’.
Foxtel labelled those downloading for free thieves and urged the Government to enact legislation that will make it much more difficult to illegally download popular programs, video games and music.
However, Choice’s Erin Turner told ABC that Foxtel “has an outdated business model” and can only blame itself.
“It expects people to pay for a whole range of products when they may want [just] one. You’re getting Real Housewives of every city, rather than just Game of Thrones, which you want,” she told 7.30.
“It also locks people into viewing content on particular devices. They’re developing this. Ultimately the problem is there are few competitors to Foxtel in Australia.
“There are few choices. If you want to watch Game of Thrones for example, Foxtel is the only place to go.”
Illegal downloader Albert (who did not want to disclose his surname as it might attract legal action from Foxtel) says the market is being fed by Foxtel’s expensive subscription deals, and the exclusivity arrangement with program maker HBO, which forced the show off legal download sites like iTunes.
“We’re closed out, and if we’re being offered another option people are going to take it,” said Albert.
His argument was dismissed by Foxtel’s Bruce Meagher.
“I can’t think of any other circumstance where you would say ‘I think you charge too much for this product therefore it is legitimate to steal it’,” he said.
“There’s a moral disconnect there which I just don’t get.”
Game of Thrones was available at a premium for Foxtel subscribers hours after the program aired in the US. Fans could legally download the full season on Google Play a day later for $2.99 an episode.