Foxtel quiet on impact of Game of Thrones leak on its cut-price deal to tackle piracy

Game of ThronesPay-TV service Foxtel has refused to be drawn on the impact of a major online leak of the first four episodes of Season 5 of Game of Thrones, after admitting its new online pricing was an “experiment” to tackle piracy.

The embarrassing leak has been described by piracy monitoring website Torrent Freak as “without doubt one of the most prominent leaks in TV history” and claiming it had been downloaded over a million times globally in the first 18 hours.

It came hours ahead of the premiere of the new season of the drama, which is reported to cost HBO US$100m per season to make, threatening a special offer from Foxtel giving consumers online access to the show for $30 per month on its Foxtel Play service hich it hoped would curb piracy of one of the most pirated programs in Australia.

Foxtel referred all inquiries to US entertainment giant HBO, which told tech news website Mashable: “Sadly, it seems the leaked four episodes of the upcoming season of Game of Thrones originated from within a group approved by HBO to receive them. We’re actively assessing how this breach occurred.”



Speaking to Mumbrella last week ahead of the launch, director of corporate affairs at Foxtel Bruce Meagher said they were working actively with HBO about the best ways to make the program accessible in Australia after criticism of its move to lock up the content exclusively, keeping it off downloading sites like iTunes and Google Play until the season had finished.

“We are continuing to refine the approach both from our point of view and with cooperation from HBO,” said Meagher. “The two things that are significant this year are that we are going to not just go to broadcast within a couple of hours of the US but we are going to broadcast the episodes simultaneously with their east coast release.

“That means that Australians will be able to see it here before people in California see it. That is a pretty big step forward and something we are happy with.”

Meagher also trumpeted the importance of last year’s drop in Foxtel’s entry price, which now starts at $25 a month but then requires the additional drama bundle to access Game of Thrones, bringing the entry price for a standard definition broadcast to $45 a month, plus set up fees.

Today Foxtel also announced it is extending Foxtel Play onto selected Sony smart TVs and Xbox One consoles.

“In terms of pricing and access, the big shift we made last year was the change in our pricing,” he said. “A substantial reduction in our entry point pricing and then consequentially a reduction in the tiers.

“If you don’t have time for that we also have Foxtel Play where we are offering a special Game of Thrones price – for the run of the season – where it will only cost you $30 a month to get the entry package and the drama package.

“Again we make the point this isn’t just getting you Game of Thrones it is getting you Wolf Hall, Mad Men and also other things as well. Those are pretty substantial changes to the way we are offering Foxtel to subscribers over the coming months.”

Last year an open letter from Meagher published on Mumbrella drew the ire of commenters, who accused Foxtel of setting the entry price point to watch premium drama too high, forcing them to pirate it.

The Foxtel corporate affairs boss said it was not economical for Foxtel to offer on its own paid access to Game of Thrones.

“Some of this is an experiment,” he said. “Our business model will always require some level of bundling and grouping things together.

“All of this, including the launch of (SVOD service) Presto, shows that we recognise that there are certain constraints around offering the high quality product or the range of content etc.

“We need to be flexible and have different approaches and different approach to the community and we are willing to do that.”

Meagher also took aim at Foxtel’s streaming rivals Netflix and Stan saying they could not match the breath of the subscription TV service’s offering.

“You look at the new entrants in the SVOD market, pitched at the $10 mark, most of them bundle up library content with not very much new content.

“At that price point it’s very hard to afford to either commission or acquire lots of new content.

“That’s a fundamental difference, but we will continue to try and find new and innovative ways to deliver customers what they want.”

 Nic Christensen 


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