Three ways to legally watch Game of Thrones season 5 in Australia
Game of Thrones season five is easily one of 2015's most anticipated TV events, but unless you have a Foxtel subscription, watching it in Australia – legally – hasn't always been easy. Here are three ways to legally watch Game of Thrones season five in Australia.
If you just want to watch Game of Thrones as it airs without messing around, Foxtel Play is easily your best option. Foxtel Play is Foxtel's take at an on-demand streaming service that doesn't require a cable subscription.
Unfortunately, Foxtel Play's pricing is almost identical to a proper Foxtel subscription and despite this, it doesn't offer high definition content. Subscribing to the service and the "Premium Movies & Drama Pick" (the content option that includes Game of Thrones) costs AUD$45 per month.
However, Foxtel is offering a AUD$15 a month discount for individuals who subscribe before April 30. The discount lasts for three months, after which the service will be billed at its regular rate. Foxtel Play doesn't have a lock-in contract, making it possible to watchseason five for AUD$90.
A free two week trial is also available.
Foxtel Play is compatible with select Samsung, Sony and LG smart TVs, PC and Mac, the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Xbox 360. A mobile version called Foxtel Go is available for iOS and Android devices.
If you're happy to put in a bit of leg work, you can sneak into the U.S. only HBO Now streaming service. Signing up requires an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, but after the initial setup you can also watch in your web browser. HBO Now is however still quite a new product, and as such, the app versions seem much more reliable than the web interface.
Episodes will go live on HBO Now at 11am AEST each Monday – the same time as they begin to air in the U.S.
HBO Now is billed at USD$15 per month, roughly equivalent AUD$19.50 at the moment. You'll also need to factor in the cost of a VPN, which is about AUD$5 per month. A 30 day free month trial is available, so if you want to watch each episode as it airs, you're looking at spending about AUD$50 to watch all of season five. HBO Now doesn't have a lock-in contract.
HBO Now also gives you access to the vast majority of HBO back catalogue, including the previous four seasons of Game of Thrones, and critically acclaimed programming such as The Sopranos, Deadwood, Bored to Death and Veep.
Note that the use of a VPN or Smart DNS provider to access geo-blocked content is a bit of a grey area legally. It's not explicitly legal, but at the end of the day, you're paying the content provider for the content that you're watching. To date, and to my knowledge, there hasn't been a case where an individual user has recieved a fine, warning or worse for the use of a VPN. It's also worth keeping in mind that the Australian Competition Policy Review recently supported the use of VPNs and Smart DNS services being used by consumers to bypass geo-blocking. Realistically, if HBO deems it has a problem with individuals dodging geo-blocks, it will suspend individual accounts or attempt to block the VPN or Smart DNS service in question. Please note that this should not be taken as legal advice.
In addition, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said using a VPN to bypass geo-blocking is not illegal under the Copyright Act.
UPDATE (19/4/15): HBO has begun sending emails to Australian HBO Now subscribers, saying that it will suspend their accounts as of April 21. Unblock Us and Getflix are allegedly looking for a work around, but until one is available, I wouldn't advise adding any iTunes credit to your account.
If you've already registered for an account, you can remove your subscription by opening the App Store on your iPhone or iPad and pressuring the "Featured" button in the bottom menu. Scroll to the bottom of the page, tap Apple ID and then View Apple ID. You'll probably need to enter your password.
On the Account Settings page, scroll down and tap Manage Subscriptions. You can turn off auto-renewal for HBO Now here.
iTunes and Google Play
And if you're happy to wait until the season five is over, can buy and binge-watch the whole thing for around AUD$30. Based on last year, you'll be able to purchase the entire season – as well as individual episodes – through sources such as Google Play and iTunes almost as soon as the last episode airs on Foxtel.
Game of Thrones' last episode for 2015 will air on June 15, so it will be a bit of wait. Not great for those hoping to avoid spoilers.
It is however worth noting that iTunes was a bit late to the party last year, and didn't add season four to its library until about two weeks after its ten episode run was finished. A reason wasn't provided.