Foxtel Now Is Playing Into The Hands Of Pirates

Foxtel Now Is Playing Into The Hands Of Pirates
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Foxtel Now was supposed to be the solution to all of Foxtel’s problems – a new streaming service with a new identity, for all Australians. And, for a while, it was great. Then along came season seven of Game of Thrones.

The hotly anticipated premiere sent Foxtel’s servers into meltdown. Thousands of customers were left with no way to watch the show live. And now the arguments of pirates, so close to being comprehensively defeated, restart anew.

This is partly understandable. Unprecedented demand crashed HBO’s streaming service, HBO Now, in the US. Unprecedented makes sense — it’s the penultimate season of the world’s most popular television show — but that’s not the same thing as unexpected.

Foxtel’s network engineers should have forecasted unprecedented demand. They should have expected it. And because they didn’t, expectant customers were disappointed.

Foxtel Now has had a relatively easy honeymoon period for its launch — no huge event TV to stress test the servers it’s carried across from the days when it was called Foxtel Play and Foxtel Go. Six weeks since it debuted with fanfare, Game of Thrones has made it fall over. What happens when The Walking Dead, equally popular, comes back while Game of Thrones is also being streamed?

Foxtel’s media department issued a mea culpa late last night, in a press release titled “Game of Thrones Phenomenon Crash Sites Across the Globe!” It mentioned the fact that the number of viewers had sent even HBO into a tailspin. But what else could you do, apart from apologise for your service?

Foxtel spends $1.6 billion on content every year. Foxtel has the best breadth and depth of content in Australia. Foxtel outspends its competitors Netflix and Stan by more than 10 times when it comes to acquiring first-run, premiere TV shows and movies like Game of Thrones. And Foxtel has an excellent infrastructure cable TV network, and has had for years.

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But it still doesn’t have the streaming product that we want to use. They’ve tried to fix it, but they still screwed up. And it’ll get better with time, as it has in the past — from HD streaming to 4K streaming, offline downloads, and so on. Foxtel has promised as much. But pirates’ arguments only need the smallest provocation to consider themselves justified.

For what it’s worth, when I wanted to watch Game of Thrones last night, I went to bed and switched on my TV and powered on my PS4, jumped into the Foxtel Now app and navigated to Game of Thrones. And it worked! The streaming quality was alright — not up to the standards of a pirated 1080p copy, but more convenient. And convenience is the keystone, the lynchpin, for Foxtel Now. It’s even in the name. Now. When your service crashes, when it isn’t now, that’s when people are right to complain.

And that’s when people will pirate Game of Thrones, and feel justified in doing it.

When I wrote how laughably easy it was to get around Australia’s site blocking laws, I got an email from John Jarratt — y’know, Mick Taylor from Wolf Creek — “if you’re good at it, it’s easy to break into a car in 30 seconds and steal it. Does that make it right because you can?”

That argument doesn’t hold sway with pirates, though. A lot of People On The Internet, who like me grew up with Limewire and Kazaa and Usenet and Bit-Torrent, need reasons not to pirate. Piracy is their default. Netflix’s Australian launch ticked the right boxes: price, availability of content, reliability. Foxtel Now has an affordable tier, and it has so much content, but it’s not reliable. Not after last night.

Imagine another world: imagine an alternate history where Foxtel Now didn’t shit the bed last night. Imagine the press release we’d be writing about instead! “Foxtel Now Had Its Busiest Night Ever”. “Foxtel Now Proved Itself Streaming Game Of Thrones.” “Foxtel Now Finally Proves That Streaming Is The Answer To Piracy”.

“Foxtel Now Has Left Pirates Dead In The Water”.


  • As I noted to friends recently, when you’ve loaded+ DVD #17 from a TV boxed set, and have to wait for the unskippable piracy message to run, then you can’t help but think it’s one of the greatest shoot-yourself-in-the-foot strategies of all time.

  • I challenge the notion that Foxtel has the best lineup of shows. I have Netflix and Stan subs and thought I’d try Foxtel for GoT. Apart from The Walking Dead (which is missing the most recent season) there is nothing that would compel me to continue paying after GoT finishes.

    The $15 price point has at least made it worthwhile to sub in just during a season, but unless you want the live sport I see no reason you’d hang around longer than that.

  • Foxtel’s media department issued a mea culpa late last night, in a press release titled “Game of Thrones Phenomenon Crash Sites Across the Globe!” It mentioned the fact that the number of viewers had sent even HBO into a tailspin.

    How can it be a valid mea culpa if Foxtel are saying (we are not so bad) “Those other places crashed too”?


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