Why paying $10 an episode for Game of Thrones doesn’t make sense

Angus Kidman 16 May 2016 NEWS


Logic is taking a serious beating.

Tasmanian John Hyslop made the news over the weekend when he said he would be willing to pay HBO $10 per episode to watch Game of Thrones.

Hyslop told the ABC that Australia has a "serious distribution problem". What he actually means is that he doesn't want to pay for a Foxtel subscription purely to watch one show.

It's not an uncommon complaint, and Hyslop's apparent willingness to cough up some money for the producers rather than simply download a torrent of each episode is praiseworthy, I suppose.

But his argument falls down on basic maths.

There will be 10 episodes in Season 6 of Game of Thrones, which means Hyslop would be paying $100 for the series.

Foxtel shows the episodes at the same time as in the US, and you can watch either via its pay TV service or through its Foxtel Play (now known as Foxtel Now) streaming service.

Foxtel costs $26 a month, with an additional $20 a month for the Drama pack which includes Game of Thrones. So that would add up to $138. That's a higher figure than $100, but it would also include access to dozens of other channels, and wouldn't eat into your monthly downloads.

Foxtel Play over the three months has a similar minimum cost of $45 per month ($25 for a single genre pick channel plus $20 for Premium Movies & Drama, which is where Game of Thrones is housed).

And prior to the launch of Season 6, Foxtel Play also had an offer where the Premium Movies & Drama pack was $5 a month rather than $20 during the three months Game of Thrones. So the total cost for those three months could be $90 -- less than Hyslop says he's already willing to pay.

Some viewers argue that the Foxtel Play app is fiddly and unreliable, and doesn't offer HD. (Similar criticisms can be heard around HBO Now, which is the equivalent service in the US.) Other people simply don't like the idea of giving Foxtel money. But the nasty commercial reality is that HBO has happily taken Foxtel's money, and the show can't be made for free.

I don't doubt that many people will continue to conclude that they don't like the options currently available and hence will choose to download pirate copies of each episode, or make strange and irrational proposals like Hyslop's. But we shouldn't confuse that noise with universal dissatisfaction.

A total of 1.2 million people watched the first episode of Season 6 via Foxtel, which is the highest rating for any show ever on pay TV in Australia. With numbers like those, I can't see HBO deciding it needs an alternative distributor down under right now.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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