Stephen Colbert is why Aussies pirate

Stephen Colbert is why Aussies pirate

Summary: iiNet's proposed model for dealing with copyright infringement is great, but content owners need to face the reality that their business model is all wrong before it'll work.


iiNet's proposed model for dealing with copyright infringement is great, but content owners need to face the reality that their business model is all wrong before it'll work.

For as long as I've been obsessed with politics, I have been a devoted viewer of the brilliant satirical news shows The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report. The only problem was that for years, Australians who didn't have Foxtel could only see the show in bite-sized internet clips or through the weekly edition on SBS.

Or there was the illegal practice of downloading the shows via a peer-to-peer technology such as BitTorrent.

Then last year, the ABC began airing the latest episodes on its digital channel ABC2 mere hours after they were shown on TV in the United States, and also made the episodes available through its iView replay website. The immediate and easy accessibility of these episodes reduced the desire to download them illegally. Why bother going down the illegal route when all this content is freely available?

Things were all great, and US politics wonks in Australia had their daily dose of satire legally provided to them care of the public broadcaster. But then at the beginning of this year Foxtel paid for exclusive rights for the two shows on its Comedy Channel, ripping them off free-to-air and iView straight back onto pay TV only.

Thankfully, for the time being, it seems that Comedy Central is still allowing Australians to stream the full episodes (with ads) from its website, and there's always the option of subscribing to the shows through iTunes at a cost of around $2.99 per episode. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see Foxtel attempt to stop this, too.

You only have to look at comments on stories announcing the end of the shows' run on ABC2 to see how unhappy the punters were, and none of them were convinced to subscribe to Foxtel.

Foxtel's move shows how content providers are still treating Australians with contempt. Why should we be forced into buying a Foxtel connection that is packaged so you ultimately end up paying for channels you have no interest in just so you can see the one or two shows you really want to?

Foxtel CEO Kim Williams, who has recently said that the lack of laws in Australia around piracy "keeps [him] awake at night", has effectively encouraged thousands of Australians to go back to their wicked torrenting ways.

iiNet CEO Michael Malone is dead right in saying in the paper that users want easy, timely and affordable access to content and none of that describes what Foxtel is offering.

Topics: Piracy, Government AU, Security, Telcos


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • The problem is that the show IS available legally via Foxtel, you just don't want to pay for channels you don't want.

    Your problem seems to be more with Foxtels product offerings and pricing, while the illegal download issue stems from shows either unavailable or having large delays in broadcast compared to the US, so is a different issue.
    • One could argue that removing content from FTA is a method of making it unavailable.

      You are right, though that the core of the issue is the long delays.
      Josh Taylor
  • I have the same problem with my less intellectual pursuit of Super Rugby watching. Fox own the rights, they used to allow you to access a paid delayed streaming service for $100 per year, which was great since I had no interest in the rest of their content. However too many people must have cottoned on and cancelled their Foxtel package. This year there is zip available.
  • Tezz, I think Josh's point is that Foxtel's approach is not sustainable for them in the long term. Currently, they buy exclusive rights to a handful of key programs to rip them off the free-to-airwaves, and bury them into a huge bundle of channels at tens of dollars per month.

    In future Australians will be able to buy net delivery of whatever single programs they want for a few cents per program, such as a complete one-day World Cup match.

    When every premises in the country has a 12 Mbps service capable of IPTV, Foxtel will have to tailor its products as small components to have any chance of market share against the likes of Netflix (which already accounts for 20% of broadband bandwidth consumption in the USA, if I understand a recent press release correctly). Telstra owns half of Foxtel and is the biggest ISP, so it will have new revenue streams as more Bigpond customer households connect to NBN fibre, wireless or satellite services.

    In the meantime, Foxtel are gouging customers for separate sport, lifestyle, movie and news channel bundles to add to the meagre base offering. Most families can't afford them, and of course only 10% of households have cable available to them. The result is that there is a very small number of customers prepared to accept the "up-sell" to the channels they need for the two or three programs they actually want.
    • No no, I understand exactly what Josh is saying, but I think you missed the point I was making.

      It's a flawed argument to say, "this show has been taken off FTA and is now on Foxtel, I don't want to pay for Foxtel so the show is no longer available to me". There is a difference between the show being unavailable and the show being available at a price you don't want to pay.

      You should also take into consideration that some of the shows being pirated are on paid subscriber channels in the US, so the argument that they should be available FTA over here is a little bit flawed too.

      I don't know if internet delivery will be the standard for most TV programming though. Things like live sport, news clips, and similar where live or as close to live broadcasting is important absolutely, but for things like dramas and comedies I can't see it at least in the short term.

      Personally I'm an NHL fan and as such subscribe to the NHL Gamecenter product (about US$160/year) to get the games, I do that because Foxtel's 2-3 games per week of random teams just doesn't cut it.

      As I trying to say, the argument shouldn't be that show is unavailable to me because I disagree with Foxtel's pricing structure, it should be this show is on FTA but I have to wait 6 months+ after it's shown in the US to be able to watch it. And of course that the media outlets should take heed and provide better delivery methods that meet the demands of the consumer.
      • At a price I'm unwilling to pay is half the argument that iiNet was trying to get across in their whitepaper, too.

        There are multiple factors here for sure - timeliness and at a price consumers are willing to pay.

        I was trying to get the point across with DS and CR that timeliness is important because those shows are both topical, and therefore it's fairly pointless to watch it after a certain amount of time but I don't think I made that clear enough. :)
        Josh Taylor
        • I'm sorry Josh, but your issue has nothing to do with the iiNet proposal, it has to do with (as I previously stated) your issues with Foxtel's pricing structure.

          If it was to do with pricing then you'd be arguing that the $10/16 episodes charge for The Colbert Report on iTunes was too much, and I'm sure that isn't the case.

  • Apart from availability on free to air TV, i think another key reason so many Australians download illegally is because it is just so convenient. Most people already have a PC with a net connection and the simple ability to download a show whenever they want and store it on their HDD for use later is just far too attractive. I think Foxtel is becoming less and less relevant and far too expensive. I don't think people have an issue paying for content, many people will gladly pay for an account with any of number of file hosts around (hotfile, filesonic, fileserve, rapidshare, megaupload to name a few). Which is purely because people can literally pick and choose what they watch as opposed to Foxtel where you have to get a package and a contract.
    • I agree. When it's easier, more reliable, and more convenient to download the content illegally than give the respectful owners my hard earned money legally something is definitely wrong with their business model.
  • The Internet is a giant in the Foxtel sandpit.

    They are direct competitors. One is fast, flexible, fresh, instantaneous, the other one is Foxtel.
  • I have no issue in paying for content but all my money goes to the US and not Australia. I personally think that Australian are sick of not just Foxtel but the FTA stations treating us like absolute crap! Take Top Gear for example, channel 9 plays it so often that you can't tell what the repeat is and when they are airing the new episode. They will then play a new episode and then a week later play a repeat in the same timeslot. The same goes for Big Bang Theory and then Survivor they constantly move the timeslot. They are just 3 examples.

    It's through the above methods that we get fed up and are basically forced to download. I buy all my TV shows through US iTunes simply because the FTA networks can't get it right. Having said this, I do watch and don't purchase shows that the networks bring direct from US(within 24-48 hours)

    Until Australian Television operators get with the times they are going to suffer the consequences. They have no one to blame but themselves but they are more concerned about whinging about piracy than trying to actually fix the issue!
    • If I want to go the hardware expense, I can get free-to-air content from a satellite over Fiji. So while you guys are watching the adverts in between, I get to see those same newscasters picking their noses (wow).

      I know it's showing my age to say that I remember when the ABC could schedule a program for 14:37:30 and that was exactly when it would start. In today's digital world where everything is pre-cued and the computer tells you exactly how much ad-space has to be filled, NOT ONE station can stick to a schedule.

      The worst offender in the 90s was Channel 9. I used to set an entire 3-hour tape just to get a 1-hour show, and even then it could miss!

      Why am I not watching free-to-air, cable or Austar or looking for downloads? Because I've given up being on the wrong end of a dictatorship and bought the $%^&@#ing DVDs already!
  • Josh Taylor you are to total retard. Both the Daily Show and Stephen Colbert are on ABC iview for free
    • Seriously? You discuss the topic by making personal insults. I disagreed with part of what Josh said but at least I gave reasons, and didn't in any way make it personal.

      And for reference neither show is available on ABC iview.
    • HRC, ABC stopped showing Daily Show and Colbert Report in January as I outlined in my blog. This means that the content is now no longer available in iView either. Have a look if you don't believe me.

      As I mentioned in my blog it's available on the Daily Show and Colbert Report websites, too. But for how long is the real question, it has been geo-locked before.
      Josh Taylor
  • There are 3 potential markets. First is low involvement, dont want to think, just want to veg out in front of whatever is on - dont want to pay for it. FTA fits that market perfectly. Second market is medium involvement, I want to watch from a pre-selected list of shows/movies I have chosen anytime soon. Services like Bigpond Movies work here. Third market is I want to watch something specific and I want to watch it now (or pretty soon). Partly filled by the likes of Bigpond Movies, iTunes etc if they happen to have what you want at the time, but often let down by lengthy delays to satisfy DVD sellers, cable TV vendors etc.

    Most people try to do the right thing but piracy is rife because whilst illegal, with the technology available today people do not see it as unreasonable to expect to be able to get access to content soon after release without having to deal with ridiculous DRM schemes that punish legitimate users more than the pirates, and by being forced to buy other crap with it that you do not want (music albums, cable tv, DVD "bonus" content etc). The distributors finally got the message with music, video will catch up eventually.

    The Australian roll out of technology that was reaching the end of its long life span (i.e. cable TV) was a poor decision that must have been made by people with the foresight of a gold fish given that broadband and video on demand were on the cards at the time. Worse was to restrict the network to a tiny footprint, already serviced by multiple methods of connecting to the internet (and good TV reception) inhabited by cafe and nightclub dwellers rather than couch potatoes - whilst leaving RIM isolated suburban estates with mum, dad and 3 kids (your typical cable tv market) high and dry. Turning the focus onto pirates is a convenient way for these executives to divert attention away from the damage done by their own imcompetence.