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Sky TV gives HBO a nudge after hot new series Banshee put free online for Kiwis

Last night I thought I'd arrived at the future of broadcasting.

US network Cinemax (part of HBO) had put the first episode of Banshee on YouTube, in full and free (Banshee being the edgy new crime series starring NZ's Anthony Starr – of Outrageous Fortune fame – which has received some good notices from North American critics).

It seemed like a very progressive move. People worldwide could check it out as a taster, and Cinemax pocket a little YouTube ad revenue in the process.

I duly tweeted the link (originally spotted by @DylanReeve), and the social media set raved.

But the raves turned to rage this morning as Cinemax YouTube channel threw up the message "The uploader has not made this video available in your country. Sorry about that" (although it can still be found; see end of story).

HBO blunder
Twitter immediately roiled with speculation that Sky TV, which holds local broadcast rights and is screening Banshee on its Soho channel, was behind the takedown.

And it turns out that were there was smoke, there was a little bit of fire.

"Cinemax put it up and took it down. It shouldn’t have been available in NZ," Sky TV corporate communications head Kirsty Way told NBR ONLINE.

And was that with a bit of prompting from Sky TV? NBR inquired.

"Yes, we pointed out the error. I’m sure they would have realised before long," Ms Way replied. 

Earned its dues ... but the times are a-changin'
Sky TV argues that it is not a Telecom-style company that inherited its monopoly. It lost around $1 billion during its hard years establishing its place in the market, and CEO John Fellet argues it has every right to recoup its  programming costs.

Would a free first episode not help the rest of the (paid) series? The broadcaster has yet to respond on that point. But I'm sure there will be an element of fear that a free taster could send some to the Torrents, or grey market commercial avenues.

[UPDATE: Ms Way told NBR: "I’m sure there have been some good effects through the availability of the first episode but as most successful businesses would agree, if you buy something you want what you paid for. If what we purchased is to be given away in our market we should be the ones to make that call, not the seller. We do preview Soho shows to Sky customers on iSky].

But the Banshee brouhaha is yet another signal that modern viewers want more pick-and-choose flexibility.

And also how hard it is to stamp something out on the intrawebs. For as I type, the first episode of Banshee is still available full and free to Kiwis through Cinemax' website here.

Another potential fly in Sky TV's ointment: the Commerce Commission is continuing its (now extended) investigation into  "whether Sky’s agreements for the acquisition of content harm competition by denying actual or potential rivals access to a critical mass of quality content."

It's an investigation that may gain some frisson from Quickflix' near-death experience before Christmas.

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Comments and questions

Sky need to start treating their subscribers with some respect. Torrenting makes TV networks a redundant part of the equation and people need little reason to stay with Sky (OK, so there's still rugby, but that isn't much).

I'm pretty sure their subscribers aren't the ones complaining here. I fail to see why people are mad at the situation. Sky has the right to show it in NZ and therefore free versions of it should be removed.

Everyone complains when Sky gets stuff late. So when it forks out the $$ to get it on time don't complain if it gets removed from YouTube.

Since they deleted that tweet, see

Can't get something played in New Zealand? Just get ProxTube for your Chrome browser. Simple.

Proxtube! Great stuff. Sky TV is an outdated model controlling a lot of content in NZ. You just never know when something will find away to bypass it. Bit of a worry for shareholders, though. Sky could go the way of video shops overnight.

So you need to subscribe to a whole channel just to watch one programme? This is just like we used to buy a whole CD for one song. A failed, outdated business model.

Unless you already have Sky you need to sign up for the basic package first as well. Plus, unless you normally remember when shows run and are home at that time every week, I recommend a MySKY upgrade, and don't forget to go for the + so you watch it in HD.

On what are you basing the assumption that bundling is a failed business model? US cable profits are the perfect example of why bundling works.

Why can't i just pay HBO a couple of dollars for a download so I can watch it here? Why are they even bothering with the middle man? When will TV producers realise that networks and advertising and global regionalisim (racism) are an IMPEDIMENT to viewership?

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