And that job was to stream Game of Thrones' season 7 premiere.
For years and years now, Foxtel has publicly lamented the Australian appetite for piracy. Accusing the country of thieving what was rightfully theirs, Foxtel has used every fibre of their being to ensure that if you want to watch Game Of Thrones during its original airing, it has to be through them. But through dogmatic adherence to a business plan from 1997, Foxtel originally refused to lower its pricing, improve its streaming apps or encourage a younger, mobile viewer. So, year on year, Australians topped the charts for ripping off GoT.
But this year was supposed to be different. Foxtel has learned the error of its ways. With it was a new logo, new apps, a big relaunch with new promises of a softer image and a wider focus. HD* would finally arrive on their IPTV services, making most of HBO’s very pretty content worth watching on a screen bigger than an iPad. The price of entry to the land of GoT dropped from an eye watering $45/month down to a manageable $15/month. Hell, it’s cheaper than Netflix now! What a brave new world we have entered!
We got press release after press release. GoT was coming! Get your PS4 app! You can even watch it in a browser! The anticipation built up and up. Australians, always willing to give a Fair Go™ shrugged their shoulders and signed up for the free trial. Maybe Foxtel had changed their ways. Gosh, this interface IS nicer. Some of this content isn’t half bad. Sure, there’s an ad before some of it, but hey, when in Rome right? But I guess I can binge on Pretty Little Liars and The Wire when I’m not tuning into the main event.
So, imagine our shock and surprise when Foxtel Now started collapsing like an Italian soccer player as soon as people got home from work and loaded up On Demand. The sheer bewilderment that would accompany a service that literally funnelled everyone looking to watch the biggest TV show on the planet into a pipe the size of your pinkie. The audacity for users to be upset that a company hyping its service and renewal would choke at the only time anyone cared. In the space of a few hours, whatever scrap of good press Foxtel had with an already annoyed populace was completely dashed.
There is no piracy problem in Australia – there is a distribution problem. How many people are downloading House of Cards? Orange is the New Black? Stranger Things? They aren’t, because Netflix is cheap, widely available and reliable. When a big new series hits at 5pm, Netflix doesn’t crawl into a ball and die – it serves it on every platform in 4K without breaking a single sweat. Twin Peaks night on Stan? Rock Solid. The Grand Tour just hit Amazon Prime – NO PROBLEM – Clarkson is obnoxious in full HD and we love it. Hell, even the shoddy FTA apps pump out more popular content without dying when it matters.
Foxtel has had months and months and months to prepare for tonight. It has enormous coffers to play with and it would be well and truly aware of the impending numbers thanks to the sudden rise in subscriptions. This is not rocket science folks – figure out how much bandwidth is required to serve a single user and make sure you have that times the number of people you notice have recently signed up for the bloody POP pack. Instead, hundreds of thousands of people either went to bed having wasted their night attempting to login to Foxtel Now over and over or just downloaded it anyway.
Foxtel, booby, you’re blowing it. People have little patience nowadays for this sort of uniquely Australian problem with capacity issues. If it doesn’t work on our shores, we’ll just chuck on VPN and sign up to HBO Go via Hulu. Your classic arguments just don’t hold weight – just like I couldn’t reliably stream an entire episode of GoT last year on Foxtel Play, I still cannot, right now, on Foxtel Now. Fix your capacity issues. Drop some CDNs at NSW IX. Make sure you are anywhere and everywhere when it matters. Or the next time the piracy figures come out, no one will be coming to your defence.