A day and a half — or less. That’s how long there is until Amazon’s new show The Grand Tour comes out, streaming on Amazon Prime. When do we get it in Australia? Not for at least another couple of weeks.
Two months — or more. That’s how long there is until the BBC’s visually stunning Planet Earth II airs in Australia, on standard definition free-to-air TV.
I want to watch both these shows, a lot. But I can’t. Unless I pirate them, or use a VPN.
Yesterday, I was thinking of writing a post asking who would even bother pirating TV shows any more, given the strides Netflix and Stan and Foxtel and Freeview have been making in Australia. And then I remembered The Grand Tour, and then I remembered Planet Earth II.
The Grand Tour situation, to be honest, is baffling. On the strength of Top Gear’s previous success, it could be the most popular TV show in the world, and that’s not an exaggeration. But, a day out from its debut on Amazon’s video streaming service in the US, UK, Germany, Austria, Japan and India, we learn that Amazon will stream the series globally… in December.
And honestly, it’s great to get some clarity — any clarity — on this. God knows Amazon has been quiet about its plans for The Grand Tour in Australia so far, leaving its publicity up to leaks and rumour and poorly educated speculation. Having any confirmation that the show is actually airing here is a quantum leap from the previous vacuum of knowledge we were stuck in.
But seriously, “December”?
With such a vague window for when Aussie fans of the show might get to watch it, would you be at all surprised if I said pirating it was the easiest option? This time last year, torrents of Amazon shows in crisp 4K resolution appeared on pirate sites. Torrents aren’t crap, low quality video rips of TV like they were five years ago — they’re pure. With no ad breaks. That’s hard for the content distributors and copyright holders to compete against on a level playing field, so why is Amazon pre-emptively stacking the deck against itself?
The closest-to-legal option that Australians have to stream The Grand Tour before it eventually airs in Australia is to use a VPN and sign up to Amazon Prime for $US11 per month. That’s pretty damn frustrating, but if the alternative is waiting two weeks — or more — then you’re going to have a lot of VPNs being switched on tomorrow evening by a lot of keen fans.
Shows like The Grand Tour have a vibrant and talkative online community. The days of talking around a water cooler with your workmates the night after everyone crowded around the telly to watch the latest episode of whatever are over. These days, it’s literally up to the minute. Communities like Twitter and Reddit talk about shows — and spoil them for latecomers — literally as they air, second by second. In this context, two weeks’ wait is painful. Two months is damn near criminal.
The only thing more vague than Amazon’s streaming date for The Grand Tour? Channel Nine’s plan for Planet Earth II in Australia. 2017.
That’s a whole year.
If Nine airs Planet Earth II on its free-to-air digital TV channel and standard definition catch-up streaming right at the start of 2017, that’s still a two month wait — to watch a show that’s already out internationally. This is a hangover of an old system that doesn’t serve fans and that doesn’t work in 2016.
You can already download the first couple of episodes of Planet Earth II in 1080p, the highest quality it’s been broadcast at (strangely for a show filmed in 4K…), right now. I know, because I’ve looked. It would be so easy to click that little magnet link and download the torrent — I’d have the show in a couple of minutes. That’s what people expect in 2016 — immediate global availability.
There’s always going to be a certain segment of enthusiasts that will always choose to illegitimately download shows like The Grand Tour and Planet Earth II. But if you want to appeal to the wider public, themselves increasingly tech-savvy and increasingly expectant thanks to the immediacy of services like Netflix and Stan and Foxtel Go and Freeview FV, you can’t wait two weeks or two months.
Come on, guys. Lift your game. Otherwise when The Grand Tour airs and Planet Earth II eventually surfaces in Australia, your most talkative fans will already have watched the shows a long time ago, and you won’t have made a penny off them.