“There is no longer any excuse to pirate Game of Thrones.” That's what the self-satisfied think-pieces were telling me. That's what the smug folk on Twitter are saying. It seems every time I refreshed I was regaled with the all-too loud declarations of those who wanted everyone to know they would be paying to watch Game of Thrones. Bully for you.
The lady doth protest too much. I’d wager a small fortune that every single one of them have a torrent client installed on their computer alongside a conveniently placed ThePirateBay shortcut on their browser of choice.
But the truth is I was no different. I also wanted to do the right thing. At some point over the last couple of days a family member and I made a decision: we would find a legitimate way to watch Game of Thrones. Through a superhuman act of will I also mustered the resolve to not tweet about this decision.
We decided to go through Foxtel. That was our first mistake.
My brother in-law paid for the subscription and I was to be his secondary account. Just a minor bit of cost saving. I was after all solely purchasing this subscription to watch one single show. At around 6.45pm I was pinged an email.
It was a “you have been selected as a secondary account email”, an email with instructions and a link. This is how I would be registering my account. “It’ll only take a minute to register” promised the Foxtel website when I hit the link. Great, I’ll have this up and ready to before my wife gets through the front door.
Yeah, nah. What happened next was an absolute calamity coupled with some of the worst customer service I’ve ever had to deal with. I feel sorry for the next poor bastard who, in all good faith, bombards me with the words, “there is no longer any excuse to pirate Game of Thrones”.
That’s what the website called it. A “generic error”. That was the webpage that sprung up when I tried to register my account.
No problem, I thought, I’ll give it another try.
Generic Error all through the good goddamn night. What the hell is a generic error? I never found out.
Foxtel’s website suggested I try again later, which I did. Same result. Then it suggested calling a customer service hotline. Which I also did. The first words I was greeted with from the robot customer service voice:
“Hey are you looking to upgrade to sports?”
Not “welcome to Foxtel”.
“Hey are you looking to upgrade to sports?”
Straight to the upsell. Bugger the foreplay. At least buy me a goddamn drink...
It took me a while to realise I was talking to one of those automated voice recognition things.
“No,” I said, eventually, exasperated.
“In a few words, tell us what your issue is,” I’m paraphrasing now. It was something along those lines.
“Secondary account” is what I said in reply. I’m sure I could have said something more precise or broad or whatever, but I couldn’t think of anything else at the time.
The robotic reply: “You want to buy a movie right?”
No. Fuck no.
Another handful of fails and the robot customer service man decides he want to converse with me no more. He resorts to listing things with a ‘press this number’ attached, the old fashioned way.
“If you want to upgrade to sports or book a movie, press 1.”
This is unbelievable.
At this point I hung up thinking maybe enough time had passed, maybe I should try and register on the website again? Nope...
Jesus Christ, could you at least be specific with your errors?
I get on the buzzer again. I stomach the upsells and the robot man who can’t understand me. I get to the part where the system has no goddamn idea what I want and is therefore in the process of transferring me to a human being who, presumably, might have some clue how to help me.
I check the time: 8.45 pm. I’ve been at this for two hours now.
I listen to the spiel about how this phone call would be recorded blah-blah-blah. I’ve been on the phone for about 15 minutes trying to get to this point. I’m optimistic. Finally, my problem might get solved.
Then another robotic message:
“We are currently experiencing high call volume, please call back later or log onto our website.”
It hangs up on me.
No callback service, no placing me on hold. Nothing. A dial tone. An invitation to go through this hellish process all over again with no guarantee that I won’t get the precise same message again at the end of it all: “please call back later”.
I could do that or I could log-in to the website that doesn’t work. Those are my two choices.
It was at this point I realized: if I had pirated Game of Thrones instead of trying to pay for it I would have downloaded it and watched it by now. I could probably have watched it twice.
So here’s what I did next. I sunned myself by the ‘bay’ and while I topped up my 'torrent tan I watched Orange is the New Black on Netflix. I logged into my account on my laptop. It had remembered precisely what episode I was up to on my PlayStation 4. I watched 20 minutes of a new episode in my kitchen whilst making a giant, soothing pot of soup. Then I turned on my TV, launched Netflix on my PlayStation 4 and, what do you know? It remembered how much of the episode I had watched on my laptop two minutes and seamlessly began playing playing from that point in HD.
I ate the soup I just made. It was delicious.
That’s entertainment in 2015 as it should be.
I, like most Australians I suspect, want to pay for things. I’m currently a paying subscriber on five separate entertainment services: Xbox Live, PlayStation Plus, Spotify, Netflix and UFC Fight Pass. During a colossal whinge with a respected colleague this morning he said something along the lines of, “you’re complaining because you didn’t get exactly what you wanted when you wanted it.”
But here’s the thing: with all these other services that’s precisely what I do get. I do get what I want when I want it. That’s the reality of the world we live in, that’s the level of service I am getting from Netflix and Spotify. Foxtel is living in a Halcyon past where there is zero competition, and it can charge whatever it likes for a less-than-stellar service.
TL;DR: Foxtel has a service problem.
It has a customer service problem and it has a problem with its actual service. If Foxtel is going to talk big about the issues of piracy, it had better have the infrastructure to back those words up and provide a service worth subscribing too. Currently, it doesn’t.
I will forever love Gabe Newell’s wise words on piracy:
“We think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem," he said. "If a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate's service is more valuable.”
Double that if you can’t even bloody log-on to a service to watch it.
Eventually, at 9:45pm I watched my torrented version Game of Thrones. It was a pretty good episode.
Originally published on Kotaku Australia