Online piracy of movies and television shows is a big problem in Australia; people don’t watch shows when they air because they probably watched them illegally two months previously. There are several factors as to why Australia has these problems: our television season (February to November) doesn’t match up with the American television season (September to May), and even when Australian networks are willing to fast track television shows, they’ll take December and January off because it’s the non-ratings period when no one watches anything but sports.
Another reason that piracy is rampant here is that Australians just don’t like paying for television. After Channel Seven cancelled A Place to Call Home, it was picked up by the Australian cable provider, Foxtel. Cue the letters to The Green Guide (and probably other television guides, but I don’t read them), complaining that they’ll have to pay for Foxtel or wait for the DVD. The show was averaging over 1 million viewers in its second season, which is exactly why Foxtel decided to pick it up – everything Foxtel does is a marketing decision to attract subscribers. If you don’t want to pay for Foxtel, that’s okay, but if you want to watch it when it airs, the subscription fee is only $75, and there’s other good television on Foxtel as well. Foxtel also did a deal with HBO in order that Game of Thrones wouldn’t be available for purchase on iTunes, beginning with the fourth season. During its third season, Game of Thrones was always at the top of the iTunes television charts. Foxtel know what they’re doing, and if non-subscribers don’t like it, they can pay a subscription fee, or break the law. Guess what’s happening.
The third factor is related to the second, and it’s that if Australians want to legally catch up on an older television show, whether it’s The Shield or Lost, they have to buy the entire season on DVD or iTunes. Australia has been woefully behind the rest of the world when it comes to online streaming; Netflix announced last year that they would be launching in Australia in March 2015, but it’s not the first streaming service on the market. As I wrote hastily last week, the Channel Nine/Fairfax streaming venture Stan launched on January 21, and suddenly Australians have options. As a fan of television, I knew that I should be watching The Shield (Alan Sepinwall‘s book, The Revolution Was Televised is essential reading for any television fan), but I was unwilling to cough up the $16 for the first season of The Shield just in case I didn’t like it. Then when I was browsing the Stan library last week, I learned that all seven seasons of The Shield are in their library! That’s convenient, especially since when you sign up, you receive a 30 Day Free Trial, and after that the monthly subscription fee is $9.99. If you end up watching the entire series in two months, it costs $10, as opposed to over $100 on DVD. It could take up to a year to watch the entire series, and it would be approximately on par with the DVD retail price. And when you consider that there are dozens of other shows and movies in the Stan library, that price is worth it. I’m looking forward to what else will be available when Netflix launches in March. (There is a third streaming service, Presto, which is a Channel Seven/Foxtel venture, but I have Foxtel so I don’t need this particular service).
On The Shield pilot, because that’s all I’ve seen so far: it’s great! Because I’ve seen people talk about the show, and read Alan Sepinwall’s book, I was spoiled for the big thing in the pilot, but that doesn’t matter because it’s fantastic. It’s beautifully directed by Clark Johnson, who also directed the pilot for The Wire (a fact I learned from Alan Sepinwall’s book, just buy it already!), which makes perfect sense now that I’ve seen both pilots – his style is well suited to both shows. I’m stunned that Michael Chiklis was my age when he was cast in this show, he looks so much older. I think my favourite character so far is the one played by CCH Pounder, because she’s awesome in everything she’s in. I knew Walton Goggins was in this show, so I wasn’t surprised to see him, but apparently it takes a while for him to be as good as he is in Justified. I’m excited to see where The Shield is going, and I’m happy I have a way to watch it without having to pay over $100 for the DVDs.