Foxtel Now failed to keep up with demand for last night's Game of Thrones season seven premiere, with fans bringing the newly launched service to its knee for almost three hours. Foxtel is attributing the outage to an influx of sign-ups around 8pm AEST, ahead of its online simulcast.
"We are devastated that some customers experienced technical issues tonight," said Foxtel spokesman, Bruce Meagher in a statement issued last night. "The unprecedented rush for a subscription just prior to the telecast, crashed the system. Foxtel engineers are working through the night to resolve the issue. It’s most unfortunate and we apologise to those affected. We are committed to resolving the technical faults immediately and together with our broadcast partners around the world, we are giving this the same degree of priority."
Encore simulcasts of season seven's first episode will run on Tuesday at Midday and 9:15pm, Wednesday at 1:20pm, Thursday at 10:10pm, Friday at 11:25am, and Saturday at 8:30pm (AEST). The episode is also available on demand through Foxtel Now in standard definition right now, and a high definition version is slated to go live today.
We've reached out to Foxtel to see if Now subscribers would receive any compensation for the outage, but a spokesperson told us that the company hasn't "got an updated statement" beyond what was issued last night.
Unsurprisingly, the outage resulted in a number of subscribers threatening to go back to piracy, with some brazenly tweeting links to torrents at Foxtel.
Australians have historically been among the most prolific Game of Thrones pirates in the world, with TorrentFreak suggesting that our humble nation was responsible for the lion's share of the first one million illegal downloads of the season six premiere last year. The site's 12 hour inspection of download locations suggests that Australians accounted for 12.5% of the show's piracy, followed by India at 9.7%, and the United States at 8.5%.
Australia's willingness to turn to piracy has typically been attributed to Foxtel's comparatively high-subscription fees and lock-in contracts. While Foxtel still has exclusive rights to the series in Australia, many have seen Foxtel Now as a way for the pay TV giant to curb illegal downloads locally. Foxtel Now allows subscribers to watch Game of Thrones for $15 per month (compared to a minimum of $30 in past years, including promotional discounts), in high definition, and is billed month-to-month with no long term contracts.
An outage wasn't all that was keeping Foxtel's social media team busy. Now subscribers also took to Twitter to express disappointment that the "on demand" stream was only available in standard definition when it went live after the initial airing at 11am yesterday morning. Foxtel reps responded saying that the 8:30pm AEST showing would be available to stream in 720p, and that a 1080i version would be available to stream on demand from Tuesday.
We've reached out to Foxtel for confirmation as to whether the high definition stream will also be delayed going forward.
Despite the outage, the Game of Thrones season seven premiere was nonetheless great news for Foxtel, with the episode beating last year's viewership records. A cumulative audience of 799,000 viewers tuned in across the 11am and 8:30pm screenings, compared to 681,000 last year.