Netflix is often seen as the golden example of what a TV streaming service should be, but when and if it launches down under, it’s likely to be terrible.
Just this week it was revealed that Netflix — a company which has yet to formally launch in Australia — is the second most popular paid content media company in Australia.
That’s a lot of Australians quietly launching VPNs and DNS redirects to get a sweet fix of US Netflix. From a base line of US$10 per month, it’s not entirely hard to see why.
At the same time, speculation has been growing around the launch of an Australian version of Netflix, with Village Roadshow the latest to confirm they’re in talks with Netflix to provide content to a potential Netflix Australia at some undefined point in the future.
This, so the pro-piracy pundits claim, will solve the content issues forever, because Netflix is the be-all and end-all of everything you could want. Or so they say.
They’re wrong — Netflix, even in the US, has huge gaps in its library, relatively little new content and, as an example, no HBO at all. So goodbye True Blood, farewell Game Of Thrones, and so on and so forth. But back to the point.
Netflix Australia, when and if it launches, could well be worse. Actually, I’ll go further than that.
It will be worse. Markedly so.
How can I make such a bold prediction when I’m not actually privy to Netflix’s negotiations?
Simply because there’s so much data out there from the existing international flavours of Netflix to demonstrate that it’s so.
There’s an article over at US Gizmodo right now where Kate Knibbs bemoans her “Life in Canadian Netflix Hell“. The essential gist is that because she’s no longer living in the 51 states, but instead north of the border, her Netflix offering is anaemic compared to what she’d grown used to with US Netflix. Whole series that she expected to be able to see weren’t available to her there.
I have friends in the UK who regularly bemoan the same thing, because the UK version has a different slew of programs. In its favour, there are programs that UK Netflix appears to get that US Netflix simply doesn’t, but the overall balance still strongly leans towards the US Netflix filling more programming holes than any other.
In fact, it’s quantifiable; with a hat tip towards James Hutchison for pointing it out, Netflixukvsusa notes the exact difference. It’s pretty staggering. US Netflix has, as per its count, 9720 movies and shows. Netflix UK only has 3230 movies and shows. I wouldn’t expect the Australian experience to be hugely different.
I still don’t think it’s the one-stop solution to your TV streaming needs, but the US service is internationally regarded as “better”, for at least a certain value of “better”.
Then we come to Australia, where there are already a handful of players who already have content deals.
That’s quite important, because while the brand might have some weight with Australian consumers, they’re only going to stick around if the content is there too.
Foxtel’s the big dog in the yard, and there’s very little doubt that it has exclusives on a whole raft of content that’s also on US Netflix. Maybe not everything, but certainly a large proportion of the kinds of content that Aussies flock to Netflix to stream.
They’re not alone, however. The commercial channels, and even the ABC are getting heavily invested in the streaming space. Then there’s outfits such as Quickflix, who already have deals in place. Some of these may not be “exclusives”, but for a population of only around 20 million potential customers, many of whom may not have the bandwidth to sign up anyway, it’s a stretch to say that Netflix would come in waving large wads of green bills around to wrest program control away. It’s far more likely that they’d launch a low-cost service, because anything over around $20 Australian per month would get almost zero traction, but with significantly less content to play with in the TV space.
Netflix may be able to secure the rights to re-runs of Kingswood Country, but would you pay $10 a month — or maybe more — to watch them?