A new deal between HBO and Google has made Game of Thrones available to watch online on Google Play.
The agreement extends a pact between the two giants from the US to the UK, bringing a range of TV programmes to British audiences through a previously untapped platform.
Indeed, UK audiences have been waiting for some time to be able to watch Game of Thrones online. BSkyB’s exclusive broadcast TV rights left non-Sky customers with little or no legal methods to watch the series without waiting 12 months for the DVD.
That changed in July 2013, when Tesco’s video on-demand service blinkbox snapped up exclusive rights to stream Season 3, just a few weeks after the show ended on Sky Atlantic – and over half a year before HBO releases it on disc.
The launch of Sky’s NOW TV Entertainment Pass in October left many wondering when (and if) Game of Thrones would be available on the company’s contract-free VOD platform – answer: it will be in 2014 – but now HBO has taken another surprising step and gone straight to Google.
The deal will make shows such as The Wire, Veep, True Blood, Girls, The Sopranos and Band of Brothers available to stream and download from next week – and, of course, Game of Thrones.
Will this mean viewers will be able to download Season 4, free of any subscriptions, alongside its broadcast next March? Perhaps, although immediate availability is more likely to be restricted to NOW TV until the end of the BSkyB broadcast, before a simultaneous pay-per-view release on both Tesco and Google’s platforms.
Either way, for Android users (or those who dislike blinkbox), the news is big. For Google, it’s even bigger: its other rival, Apple’s iTunes, has no rights for the fantasy series at all. And audience demand makes Game of Thrones a profitable addition to a video on-demand catalogue: blinkbox saw sales jump 632% year-on-year when Season 3 was added to Tesco’s digital line-up.
Google is roughly following blinkbox’s pricing structure, charging £18.49 to download Season 3 of Game of Thrones, or £1.89 per episode.
“We are delighted to bring our wide range of programming to Google Play in the UK, and expand on our existing relationship in the US,” Colin Smith, director of international digital distribution for HBO, told Variety.
“This is an exciting time for HBO in the digital space and we can’t wait to work with Google over the coming weeks and months to deliver all of our series and films to their platform, including a host of new and returning HBO shows throughout 2014”.