Tuesday 20 February 2018

Game Of Thrones: why no Irish need apply to buy it

Game of Thrones: The show Irish money can't buy.
Game of Thrones: The show Irish money can't buy.
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The following is an open letter to Richard Pleper, chief executive of the television network, HBO.

Dear Richard,

First of all, let me just say I'm a big fan.

From 'The Larry Sanders Show' to 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' to 'The Wire' and 'True Detective', you've given me a lot of really great television over the last 20 years.

But now I have a bone to pick.

I recently started to watch 'Game Of Thrones'. From the first episode of the first season. I did it using the 'Sky Go' app, which lets you watch anything you're subscribed to on the satellite television service.

Now this is really handy. Because while TV viewers are on Season 6, the previous five seasons are happily available to stream on Sky's online service.

At least, they were.

Having finished Season One and just started on Season Two, I logged on to Sky's online service to see that all five previous seasons have been yanked from the system.

At first I wondered whether it was a glitch. But I did a quick Google check and it seems that a goodly part of the internet is up in arms for the same reason.

It seems that Sky had a defined window of a few weeks in which to show earlier seasons of 'Game Of Thrones'. And, unfortunately for me and lots of others, that window came to a close just as I was getting into the series.

I got on to Sky about it and they said it was a licensing condition that you set.

Oh well, I thought - I'll just have to buy it from iTunes or something. So I went looking.

And looking. And looking.

But for anyone with an Irish credit card, it was nowhere to be found.

It turned up in other countries' (UK, US, Australia and many others) iTunes stores and online services But not here.

After a while, I came to an odd realisation: you can't legally buy or rent Game Of Thrones online in Ireland.

Wondering if it was just some special quirk attached to a particular hit show, I tried a few other HBO shows. Some were available, some weren't. But those that weren't were available in most other countries.

So at this point, HBO, I have to ask - why won't you sell your shows to us? Is it something we said?

I tried to speak to your excellent press people during the week. But I think emails to Ireland are on the same blacklist as licensing, as queries to both Quentin Schaffer and Jeff Cusson elicited no acknowledgement.

(Is that a thing, too? Email non-availability to Ireland?)

I did, however, see the following advice for people in our position posted on a web board.

'At present, we don't have that content available for your territory,' said the message. 'But you can buy it on DVD.'

Richard, are you serious? A DVD?

Do you want me buy the soundtrack on vinyl, too? Or maybe tape cassette?

In fact, I think I have an old VHS recorder in the attic - I'm guessing you'll sell me some good old videotapes?

Even from a business perspective, I'm sure you'll see the irony of all this Richard.

As you know, 'Game Of Thrones' is the most pirated, illegally downloaded show in history. It is now a trivial thing to go online and get a pirated copy of the series. There are any number of torrents, websites and streams that will do it.

But here's the thing, Richard - I don't want to do that.

Like millions out there, I really want to play this one by the book.

I want to hand over cash (to you!) for a show I'd like to see; a show that is available to stream in many other countries around the world at the tap of a touchscreen or (in a small number of cases) the click of a mouse.

I'm not even looking for a cut-price deal on it, either. I really am happy to pay a premium fee. Full whack. Top tariff. The DVD price, if you like. (Without you even having to stump up for the DVD, delivery and packaging!)

I am the customer you really, really want. You'd likely make hundreds out of me every year.

But instead, you're telling me either to hunt through second hand shops for DVDs or abandon my sense of propriety and look for some pirated torrent.

At least, that's what I assume you're telling me. Because I'm sure you're not suggesting that I ditch thoughts of downloading a show I want in favour of waiting until a network broadcasts it in short segments, once a week.

Richard, we're never going back to TV being a once-a-week thing. I'm not sure if you've seen the data from companies like Nielsen, or other analysts reports showing that a quarter of adults under 35 don't watch scheduled television any more, but those days have gone.

So I'm making a final offer, Richard - take my money. Please. I'll pay any way you like. But get with the times: put your programmes online to be legally bought or streamed.

If you don't, well, they won't be bought.

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