It's hard to miss when a new series of Game of Thrones starts... the media and bloggers love to talk about it, and you'll probably hear a lot about it from your friends too.
What isn't so obvious is how to watch it in Australia. It took me quite some time to investigate all the options, so I've made this brief overview.
I found five ways to watch the Season 4 in Australia without pirating it. All prices are for the HD version — because if you're not watching HD you should re-evaluate your life choices:
* Estimated price
This is the traditional way of watching Foxtel. They install a cable into your house and put a box next to your TV.
The minimum possible cost is $580, which comprises of:
Foxtel iQHD is absurdly expensive. $580 would buy you excessive numbers of movies and TV shows from just about anywhere else, so it's not an option to take seriously.
Kudos to Foxtel for introducing a more reasonably priced service with Foxtel Play. Foxtel is trying to increase its subscriber numbers by preventing iTunes from screening Season 4, which caused a lot of anger from Aussies who paid $34 to watch Game of Thrones on iTunes last year. I very much doubt that Game of Thrones would have gained extra subscribers for Foxtel if the only option was an iQHD subscription costing nearly twenty times more than iTunes.
Unlike Foxtel iQHD you're not locked in to a contract. However you need at least a three month subscription because Game of Thones Season 4 runs for ten weeks. So the minimum possible cost is $105, which comprises of:
If you absolutely must watch Season 4 now, it seems Foxtel Play is the best option. But at three times the price of last season it's still far too expensive. You're paying a very large tax for being impatient!
Another disadvantage is that you can't watch the show again after you end your subscription. Do you want to watch Season 4 again just before the next year's Season 5 so you remember what was going on? That will cost you another $50.
But the best reason to now choose the Foxtel Play option is that it will only encourage Foxtel to do it again. Their deal over Game of Thrones took away the great option I had last year, leaving me with their inferior Foxtel Play. I don't want this to be a success for them, because if it is then we might see more shows locked up and taken away from sale.
For that reason alone I'm not choosing Foxtel Play.
Exactly when Game of Thrones will appear on iTunes and Quickflix is a mystery. Last year they both had Season 3 within hours of the first US broadcast, and they both charged $34 for the entire season. That's a one off purchase price, not a subscription fee, so you can watch them again any time you like.
This year Season 4 is not available on iTunes or Quickflix yet, but it seems likely that all the episodes will arrive at once in mid June.
We know that iTunes and Quickflix can't screen Season 4 until after Foxtel finishes their screenings, and by my reckoning the last episode of Season 4 will screen on 16 June on Foxtel (ie shortly after the US release).
Does that mean iTunes and Quickflix will release the show 16 June 2014? We can't know the date for sure, but I'm sure they won't waste a minute getting it out there as soon as they're permitted. The Quickflix executive chairman Stephen Langsford expects Quickflix to have Season 4 around June.
Last season's DVD and Blu-ray discs were released in Australia on 19 February 2014, nearly a year after Season 3 was first shown on TV. Prices generally seemed to be in the $50-60 range.
Release dates for the Season 4 Blu-ray have not been announced, but there's no reason to think it would be any faster this time. Expect to wait until February 2015 if you want a Blu-ray disc.
For me the choice is clear: iTunes.
It's cheap, it's legal, I don't have to wait long until it arrives, I can keep it forever and I can watch it as often as I like. I prefer iTunes over Quickflix because I have an Apple TV, but Quickflix and iTunes are equally as good.