Game of Thrones streaming online in Oz, but not in US

Playing catch-up: US iTunes Store, Netflix, Hulu don't have second season streaming

Australia is one step ahead of the US when it comes to online streaming of the popular TV show Game of Thrones: episodes of the show's currently-airing second season aren't available online through the US iTunes Store, Netflix or Hulu.

Viewers in Australia can access the show online via iTunes at the same time as it is broadcast locally, but US viewers must have an expensive cable subscription to access Game of Thrones online.

Game of Thrones

US Game of Thrones viewers are in a tough spot. To watch the show, their only two options are to pay for cable TV (about US$70 a month for an appropriate package) and watch each episode as it airs, or to pay for the same cable service and watch on the HBO GO online video streaming portal. Many potential viewers turn to BitTorrent.

It’s important to note the reason for all this piracy: lack of access to the show for people who can’t afford, or choose not to purchase, a cable-TV subscription.

A Forbes opinion piece says that HBO only has itself to blame for skyrocketing illegal downloads of the show, which is on track to be the most pirated TV show of 2012.

While heavy piracy has not killed off the first season’s DVD sales, pirates are using BitTorrent as a free alternative to the cumbersome process of buying and installing a cable TV subscription — analyst John Robinson told Forbes that this “is absolutely a reaction to the show’s not being available elsewhere online.”

According to BitTorrent news site TorrentFreak, the first season of Game of Thrones was the second most downloaded TV show of 2011. TorrentFreak also makes reference to the haphazard online availability of US TV shows: when Fox delayed currently-airing shows from appearing on Hulu for eight days after their broadcast, BitTorrent downloads doubled.

Forbes writer Erik Kain lays the reasoning out clearly: "Now, it’s important to note the reason for all this piracy: lack of access to the show for people who can’t afford, or choose not to purchase, a cable-TV subscription."

Australian iTunes Store customers can stream the entire first season of Game of Thrones off iTunes for $28.99. This purchase is for a DVD-quality version; there's no HD option available on the iTunes Store, so hi-def aficionados have to buy the Blu-ray (about $55 from JB Hi-Fi).

Why it isn't available in HD is unclear. It might be an exclusivity arrangement between HBO and its Australian broadcaster, or the bandwidth requirements on Apple's servers may be too great — Game of Thrones is one of the most popular shows on the iTunes Store, even without HD.

But more interesting is that in stark contrast to the US, Australians can purchase a season pass for the second season of Game of Thrones on iTunes for $28.99, and watch each episode of the show as it comes out — in line with its local airing on Australian cable TV's Showcase channel. Single episodes are $2.99 each.

The show airs on Showcase here on Sundays at 8:30PM, six days after the original US cable broadcast. Shows are added to iTunes on the same day, making the streaming service a viable alternative to paying at least $92 a month for a Foxtel subscription with Showcase (plus ancillary costs like installation).

Viewers in the US don't have that alternative. Anyone without a cable TV subscription is simply unable to watch Game of Thrones, whether it's through a cable connection or through the HBO website.

Ideally, Australians would be able to watch the show on iTunes or Showcase at the same time as it airs in the US. This would not eliminate piracy — downloading TV shows for free is more desirable than paying for a subscription, and downloading is often the easiest approach anyway — but any reduction would mean extra money in copyright holders’ pockets.

For the price of less than a week's wait, Australians have more ways to watch Game of Thrones than viewers in the country where the show is produced and originally aired. That's surprising.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

Good Gear Guide
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?