When Game Of Thrones returns to Australian screens in April, you'll no longer have the option of buying the episodes on iTunes shortly after transmission. Here's what you can do instead.
We've known since mid-2013 that Foxtel has locked down an exclusive deal which means Game Of Thrones won't be offered on the Australian iTunes store for Season 4, but the issue flared up again in news media over the weekend after Foxtel programmer boasted on the deal to our friends at TV Tonight. It's an annoying arrangement for viewers who wanted a way to legally watch Game Of Thrones and support those involved with the show, but who can't find value in a Foxtel subscription.
These are the choices you have.
Pay for a Foxtel subscription
This is what Foxtel is hoping everyone will do, and it is fast-tracking episodes so they'll screen on the same day. It isn't a cheap option though -- the cheapest package which includes HBO content (a requirement for Game Of Thrones) is $74 a month, and you're usually stuck with a long-term contract. It's not surprising fans are looking for alternatives.
Wait for the DVD or Blu-ray
Fully legal, no hassles waiting for downloads, high quality, easy binge watching. However, you won't be able to get your hands on it until well after transmission, which will mean months of trying to avoid spoilers if you haven't read the books. This is the obvious option for casual or new viewers but won't work for devotees.
Download a pirated copy
This isn't legal, but it's what most non-Foxtel fans will end up doing (expect to see the traditional news articles about how Australia tops Thrones piracy leagues shortly after 6 April). Many will justify the decision by purchasing the DVDs or Blu-rays later when they are released.
Solutions that won't actually work
Game Of Thrones isn't offered on the iTunes store in the US, so you can't simply use a US iTunes account. And it isn't on Netflix either, so you can't use a US VPN to access it that way. This does raise one useful point: while Foxtel's deal has undoubtedly annoyed a lot of viewers, HBO is just as restrictive in other markets. It's not a case of Australia having an especially restrictive arrangement: it's a case of the show's creators trying to make as much money as possible. We have to assume that the amount Foxtel paid for an exclusive is higher than what HBO made from iTunes sales.