Today is the first day of spring. Which is weird. Because winter is coming.

At least for some big media companies, that is.

Here’s my situation: I recently started watching the HBO series “Game of Thrones” (based on the George R.R. Martin “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of novels). It’s fantastic. I’m addicted. My girlfriend and I watched the entire first season in three days. It seemed like perfect timing, because season two is about to start on April 1.

One problem: I won’t be able to watch it until 2013 at the earliest. Well, legally, that is.

The problem is that I’m not an HBO subscriber. Believe me, given the quality of their programming, I would love to be. Unfortunately, it’s absolutely impossible to subscribe to HBO unless you also subscribe to cable (and/or satellite television). You cannot give HBO your money directly. They will not accept it. They are fully in bed with the cable companies and are not going to get out of that bed anytime soon, because of what they get paid to perform their unnatural acts in that bed. A lot of money.

My only option to watch this upcoming seasons of “Game of Thrones” legally in 2012 is to get HBO, which means getting a cable subscription. I’m not going to do that. Why would I pay upwards of $100 a month for something I have no interest in? I just want HBO.

Because of the aforementioned naughty cuddling deal HBO has with the cable companies, they also cannot (or will not) offer up their content via a legal means, such as iTunes, in a timely manner. When I watched the first season of “Game of Thrones” this past week, I watched it through iTunes, where I happily purchased the entire season for $38.99 (in HD). But it only became available on iTunes in the past few weeks — nearly a year after the first season went off the air on HBO. It’s going to be the same with season 2. I’m looking at March 2013 at the earliest before I can legally watch it.

The keyword there is “legally.”

It brings me no great pleasure to do it, and I’m not technically sure that I’m allowed to say this, but I’m going to because HBO has left me no choice: I’m going to be pirating season 2 of “Game of Thrones.”

I’m going to be forced to scour the shady underbelly of the Web to find the show. The upside (from what I hear) is that I’ll likely be able to get it before it even airs. And it will probably be in better quality than any legal download and/or broadcast. And it will be delivered to me fast. And, of course, it will be free.

Again, I’d gladly pay for it. But I have no way to do so, outside of forking over an obscene amount of money on a monthly basis to a cable company, and/or waiting a year. I’m just not willing to do that. My hand is being forced.

I’m specifically talking about “Game of Thrones” here, but you can easily make this argument about a number of television shows (“Homeland,” which is on Showtime, for example), movies, and other content. All these years after the iTunes Store first launched, Hollywood still doesn’t seem to get it: The only way to stop people from pirating is to make it easier to get content where you want it, when you want it, at a fair price.

Instead, Hollywood often goes the complete opposite direction. They make it basically impossible to get the content at any price. Hence, piracy.

This sucks for the creative talent behind these amazing shows and movies. But the studios are paying them handsomely already. The only ones Hollywood is actually hurting with their assbackwards policies are themselves. But they’re too blind to see that.

I’m sure they have their reasons in their heads as to why they can’t make their content more readily available. But I’m also sure that most of those reasons amount to fear and a lack of understanding. They’re worried that cable contracts will dry up. That DVD sales will dry up (more than they already have, which is inevitable anyway). That ease of access will lead to piracy. But it won’t. It would just lead to — get this — more actual sales.

They’ll learn that eventually. But it will be the hard way. After a long winter. And “Game of Thrones” will be long off the air by the time that happens.

Too bad. It’s a fantastic show. And I’d love to pay someone to watch it.

[image: HBO]