We shouldn’t have to wait months for top US TV
On Monday night, one of this year’s most talked-about shows aired on HBO in the US.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m talking about The Newsroom – the latest drama from Aaron Sorkin, creator of The West Wing and The Social Network.
The show focuses on reputably private news anchor, Will McAvoy, who loses his mind on a university panel when the MC goads him into revealing his political allegiances, and the corporate restructure that follow his public meltdown.
But that’s not the point. The point is that US cable channel HBO (Home Box Office) made the pilot episode available online on websites such as YouTube and Daily Motion in an effort to combat piracy, and lo and behold, it is still not available to Australians.
“Why is that?,” you ask. Because The Newsroom is due to air in Australia on Foxtel later this year on a new channel called “SoHo” which will replace the patronisingly named “W” channel. (Foxtel, by the way, is partly owned by News Ltd, publisher of The Punch).
When? I can’t tell you, but rumours say September.
Update, 10am June 29: Foxtel has confirmed to The Punch that The Newsroom is set to air in August.
So why the wait? Well, it could be that Foxtel wants to wait until it has the maximum number of eyeballs on their new channel – i.e after the Olympics. It could be that HBO has the exclusive first screening rights, but considering that it is making it available online to non-subscribers, I highly doubt it.
But here’s the thing: I’m sure Foxtel has some very precise data which tells them September is key, but there is an audience of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands that they are missing out on because last night they all headed to Pirate Bay to download the show, because it wasn’t made available anywhere for legal purchase.
In the US, HBO is reportedly making episodes of The Newsroom available on Apple TV the day after it airs on TV, as well as on Video-On-Demand channel, HBO GO, because HBO understands that people want to watch TV shows when it is convenient for them.
But Australians with Apple TV will not be able to access the show, because Foxtel wants us to watch it when it is convenient for them. I’d like to hear the rationale, because there’s a strong argument Foxtel will not benefit from that decision. People don’t wait. They download. And by not making TV shows like The Newsroom available on demand, Foxtel could lose part of its audience.
The very keen amongst us who are determined to find a way to pay for the TV show, grant Sorkin the royalties he is due and watch it without having to pirate can find work arounds like setting up a US iTunes but it’s very tricky, and not always guaranteed to work.
But did you know that trying to purchase a show from the US can have serious repercussions? PayPal has in the past limited the accounts of users who tried to purchase TV shows and films that are not yet available in Australia.
Whether or not it is actually illegal to purchase entertainment that is not available in the country is a grey area. Neither the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), nor the Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft (AFACT), nor the Copyright Council or Tribunal could tell me whether it was illegal to use back-end workarounds to purchase foreign TV shows. But needless to say, it is frowned upon.
The point is the reviews are out now. People are talking about it all over the internet and in such a global age September is a long time to have to wait for a TV show. Can you imagine trying to avoid internet spoilers for two months?! It’s impossible.
Foxtel could actually be driving users to download and that could damage their brand and devalue the content they are withholding. That isn’t premium. It’s Freemium. Because people would rather break the law than wait, even when statistics show Australians would pay for content given the option.
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