The five stages of Foxtel’s Game of Thrones grief

From hopeful denial to full-on Hound-level rage, Twitter was the staging ground for Australia's collective five stages of grief on Monday evening as the country tried (and failed) to watch GoT on Foxtel Now, explains Maurice Riley.

Unless you’ve been living Beyond the Wall, you’ve probably heard about the drama that unfolded on Monday, when season seven of HBO’s acclaimed drama, Game of Thrones, premiered on Foxtel Now.

No, I’m not talking about that cameo; I’m talking about levels of grief and longing comparable to those experienced after Jon Snow’s death, when Foxtel’s shiny new service crashed and left us waiting for the winter that never came.

How did this happen? Foxtel’s systems usually handle around 5,000 processes a day, but on Monday they were hit with 70,000 transactions in just a few hours. Unprecedented, maybe. But unexpected? Not so much. Result: an unintelligible error message reading, “Unknown copy for key (SR101_tile)”. Was that Dothraki?

So when Foxtel’s system crashed around 7pm, we did what any self-respecting, bereavement-driven fans would do – we took to Twitter to publicly act out the five stages of grief and loss.

First there was denial. The Foxtel Now site had 2.3 million page views, with people spending an average of 12 minutes waiting in vain on the failed site.

This hope soon turned full Hound however, with 21% of posts with anger sentiment calling out Foxtel. But people were even angrier at the prospect of spoilers, with 23% of enraged tweets aimed at those absolute worst types of people who would ruin the journey for those of us still waiting to arrive in King’s Landing.

Then came bargaining. “Maybe it’s not them, it’s me and my internet provider choices”, we mused, sending 1500 self-doubting viewers straight to sites like Speedtest.com to verify they did not have slow(er than usual) internet speeds.

Of course, lots of us found reasons to moan like we’d lost an appendage (moment of silence for Theon please), but it wasn’t all down to the crash. In fact, there were twice as many sad sentiment posts about poor old Ed Sheeran’s cameo than about the failed stream.

Finally, we accepted our fate. If we wanted to watch the premiere that night, we would have to resort to the dark side of the interwebs. But only about 3000 people headed directly for illegal streaming sites after leaving the Foxtel site.

It turns out, while most of us bemoaned our grief, we never really embraced a loss. I also angrily posted my frustration, as well as my intention to watch GOT by any means necessary. But in the end, I opened up Netflix, stayed off social media and awoke early the next morning to try again.

Turns out many others did too. Google searches for Foxtel Now at 6am Tuesday morning were double that of the same time on Monday, and seven times more than the day before that. So it seems, in the end, customers voted with their Tweets, but not their feet. Most of those new Foxtel subscribers will stick around.

As Cersei says in season one: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.” And while Foxtel’s fail certainly inflicted some pain, it looks like it wasn’t a fatal blow.

Maurice Riley is head of media and strategy at DigitasLBi Australia.


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