Online streaming and piracy has always been a major issue for the Australian film and television industry. Shows like Game of Thrones come to Australia at the same time as the US, but the cost of Foxtel often deter people from taking the legal route. Similarly, the creators of Breaking Bad did not realise the show’s impact until after it was over, as most of its audience viewed the series online.
Although there is (arguably) a good case for disrupting piracy in those circumstances, Australia still has a fair amount of FOMO when it comes to receiving entertainment services. In the past, we used to wait for films to be released here months after the US date. These days, the internet is a global spoiler pool. Logging onto any social media guarantees you see the latest Stranger Things news, whether you’ve watched season 2 or not. Australians can’t keep getting left behind when it comes to release dates. While our cinemas are getting more timely, we’re now faced with a new problem: streaming services.
These services are developing more original programs and nabbing exclusive content. Twin Peaks fans were convinced to sign up to Stan when the new season was released, while Riverdale viewers must be with Netflix to keep up-to-date.
Netflix does give its Australian audience the same access to original content as it does its American viewers, but a quick look on the US version shows how many current programs we’re missing out on. Imagine being able to watch The Walking Dead as it comes out, without the huge Foxtel fees. This, of course, comes down to how much we’re willing to spend on entertainment. Regardless, the same content is being released that Australians don’t have any access to.
Hulu is an American streaming service that currently does not have the rights to stream in Australia. Despite this, Australians are still seeing promotions of the content it produces, even though we have no legal way to watch it. It recently released the first three episodes of Marvel’s Runaways, the latest comic-book-inspired program.
We’ve even had actors in Australia promoting the show, with James Marsters touring Brisbane and Adelaide with Supanova in 2017. Although this wasn’t exclusively a promotional tour – a fair segment of his panels was him speaking about his latest project – it was for a show that nobody in this country is able to legally view.
Although the program does show on Foxtel, it isn’t being released on an alternative service and Australians can’t get access to Hulu. Despite this, we’re still seeing the hype erupt on social media and spoilers slowly being spread. Are we meant to wait for the DVD release, if there is one? Or is this the start of a new level of country-restricted content?
It all depends how immoral we view piracy to be. After failing to access to program legally, is it still wrong to find alternative streaming channels? Most fans would much rather legally support their favourite actors, creators or adaptions, but we’re restricted from doing so.
If Marvel’s Runaways is ever released in Australia, we might watch it again. But you can’t ask viewers to not commit piracy if that’s the only way they are able to access your content.
Hulu will be releasing more exclusive programming in 2018. IT’s Bill Skarsgård is set to star in another Stephen King adaption next year. The horror remake was the highest grossing film in Australia through the first half of September. Wouldn’t it be expected that Australians are going to want to watch similar content?
We are a viable market. We’re not an isolated island that doesn’t care about entertainment, film or television. This is clearly seen with our piracy rates of some of the world’s biggest shows, as well as the legal accessing of blow up hits like Stranger Things. We are told piracy is theft, but we’re given no other option if we want to keep up with current entertainment trends.
If the film and television industry want to reduce piracy, give as alternatives, don’t block us out.