No gift for readers, but free advice for all

Last updated 13:14 24/12/2013

In this season of goodwill it would delight me to be able to offer a gift for every one of you reading this.

Unfortunately, my Christmas budget this year extends only to just enough pinenuts that I'm able to legitimately call my dinner tomorrow "nut loaf" instead of "loaf".

So you'll have to make do with some free advice instead - sign up for a virtual private network (VPN) service and stop relying on the old paradigm of broadcast television.

This doesn't apply to New Zealand television shows - I'm more than happy to sit through a ton of advertisements to be entertained by the likes of Jono and Ben at Ten and Nothing Trivial.

Hell, put up a local channel with original drama and comedy and I'll happily pay $25 a month to watch it. More if a new season of The Almighty Johnsons is planned.

Supporting our local industry is hugely important and I will continue to do so as long as I have a breath left in my body.

But the latest announcement regarding the future of imported shows, like Homeland, American Horror Story and Modern Family, just further creates a two-tier system of television viewing in New Zealand - and one that goes against the grain of freedom of information.

When MediaWorks' deal with Fox came to an abrupt end it left the future of many popular shows in the air.

TV3 signed a new deal and will be showing some of the programmes they used to. But if you want to continue watching the aforementioned Homeland, Bones or catch new drama Sleepy Hollow you'll have to drink from the Sky bucket instead.

Of course, should you want to watch them within a decent time frame you'll have to pony up a lot of cash - $55.61 for a Soho subscription, where they will first be shown, or $80.61 (by my calculation) to be able to watch them in HD via MySky and the HD ticket.

If you are happy to have everything spoiled for you by the internet and watch it in grainy standard definition you can, of course, watch it on Prime after waiting ... well, long enough for Sky to have taken as much money off you as possible.

In today's world a two-tier system just doesn't make any sense to me.

I grew up in an era where massive television cliffhangers were the discussion around the playground and watercooler for days, if not weeks.

Then the internet became ubiquitous and if you wanted to stay on top of things and avoid spoilers there was no point in ignoring it - you had to embrace it.

And embrace it I have.

At a cost of about $30 per month you can buy a VPN connection and subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu Plus.

It's a grey area, of course - you have to go against the terms and conditions of Netflix and Hulu to be able to do so.

But as long as you pay your monthly fee, the lack of action by either of those companies seems to indicate they're happy enough with you using the service.

They certainly know many people outside the United States are signed up to their offerings, so what other conclusion can you draw?

With a decent internet connection you can stream, on demand, entire seasons of high-definition television shows, movies and the latest episodes of your favourite shows - and spend about $50 less than subscribing to Sky just so you can access Soho in HD.

Of course, I don't expect many in the corridors of power around the television industry in New Zealand agree with me. Perhaps you don't either.

Just let me send a warning, however.

Hang around a few teenagers' houses for a few hours. Go on. Just pick them at random.

See how they use the internet. See how happy they are to go to illegitimate streaming sites that don't cost them anything to watch just hours after they've aired in the US.

See how they use social media to discuss their favourite shows. See how many are prepared to wait weeks, or months, after their friends have seen them to watch them on Prime.

See how new dodgy streaming sites pop up as soon as one shuts down. Then you'll understand just how broken the current paradigm is.

In the meantime I'll be catching up on the final episode of this season of Homeland from the internet.

I already know what happens, of course. That's the choice you make in waiting nine days after it's aired and not locking yourself in a room with no internet.

Still, at least I won't have to wait months like most of you.

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