An untapped market: Aussies are crying out for video on demand

In Australia, streaming movie and TV show services are years behind international benchmarks

TV static

At the start of this month, US online video giant Netflix announced a milestone: its users had streamed over a billion hours of TV shows and movies in a single month.

The service costs US$7.99 per month, giving its 25 million subscribers unlimited access to a huge range of movies and TV shows -- available on demand, and on a wide variety of devices including TVs, Blu-ray players, PCs, tablets and smartphones.

Netflix has established itself as the benchmark in online video on demand, and has expanded in the last year to Canada, Latin America, the UK and Ireland. It’s even branched out into creating its own programming, pioneering with the online-only Lillyhammer and following up with a new series of the cult hit Arrested Development. That series will be released in its entirety on Netflix when it’s completed -- no weekly broadcast, no agonising wait for the next episode to air.

Netflix has competition in the US, too -- it has a close rival in Hulu Plus, as well as Amazon Instant Video, which allows both rentals and purchases. All three services are very reasonably priced, have vast libraries of content, and are accessible on a wide range of media devices.

Australians aren’t able to access any of them.

The most exciting recent development in Australia’s video on demand scene was Foxtel’s announcement that it would stream some of its pay TV channels to a selected range of Samsung Smart TVs.

Foxtel on Internet TV, which also exists on the Xbox 360, costs at least $20 a month for a limited range of programming -- and there’s no way to pick a particular show on demand for free. Foxtel does deliver movies and TV shows through the Xbox via its On Demand service, but you'll have to pay separately for each video you watch.

If you want to watch a movie you’ll need the Movies pack at an extra $15 per month. To watch local and international sport is another $10 per month. All of this comes on on top of the $1000-plus price of a Samsung Smart TV, or at least $249 for an Xbox.

It is a step in the right direction though, and alternatives do exist. You can stream individual movies and TV shows to an Apple TV from Apple’s iTunes library, or install Quickflix or BigPond Movies apps on a variety of Smart TVs and Blu-ray players.

But even these more versatile services are still painfully expensive. One HD movie rental from iTunes is at least $5.99 -- almost enough to pay for an entire month of Netflix in the US.

Content is also limited -- no on demand service in Australia shows US TV shows as they’re broadcast in the States like Netflix does, and the wait for local streaming of internationally released movies can be months long.

So why is Australia forced to pay much more for online video on demand, with vastly inferior options?

Existing content deals for TV and movies play a huge part. Australia’s commercial TV networks and film distributors are incredibly powerful -- their monopolistic stranglehold on the market means they’re able to dictate how and when Australia sees the next episode of Desperate Housewives, or when and where the latest Hollywood blockbuster is released in cinemas and online.

The Internet is the biggest challenge to this monopoly. Anyone with a computer and BitTorrent software is able to illegally download TV shows and movies. Anyone who can follow instructions to install virtual private network (VPN) software can access Netflix and Hulu through international proxy websites.

Both of these avenues deny money to Australian content providers and Australian copyright holders, but bafflingly they’re the easiest way for some Australians to view the videos they want, when they want.

At the moment, there’s simply no legal way for Australians to watch TV in a comparable way to what US viewers have with Netflix.

Local copyright holders have been living for a long time off advertising revenue from TV networks, and box office takings and disc sales from traditional movie distribution. Online streaming and the direct subscription model hasn’t been given a chance... yet.

An unexpected push comes in the form of Smart devices -- new, Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top boxes which are powerful enough to access and play streaming Internet video from local sources like ABC iView and SBS On Demand.

It’s only a step away from watching these services to full, unlimited streaming of TV shows and movies -- the infrastructure is already in place in thousands of Australian homes, and in the pockets of any smartphone user or tablet owner.

Music has already made the leap to the Internet. Australia has recently had an online epiphany after many years of CDs and vinyls; anyone with a PC or tablet or smartphone can access unlimited music from Rdio, Spotify, MOG, Songl, or several other services, for a single monthly price.

This is the model we need for online video on demand.

Most of the puzzle pieces already exist in Australia - we’ve got the infrastructure, we’ve got the understanding of how streaming works, and we’ve definitely got the interest -- Australia’s role as the world’s worst Game of Thrones BitTorrent offender shows that much.

The last piece in the puzzle is a content provider that’s brave enough to launch a single-price, unlimited, on demand, all-you-can-eat online TV and movie streaming service Down Under.

Should Australian consumers have more say in how they watch TV shows and movies? Are you happy with existing TV and movie streaming services -- do you use them, or are they too expensive and slow to bring out new content? Let us know in the comments below.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.
Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

Good Gear Guide

2 Comments

Anthony

1

It's all due them not having international streaming rights for Australia currently.

As a fact, I know Hulu and Netflix both own local .com.au domain names but don't have international streaming rights for them to use currently.

The domain names owned by Hulu and Netflix are Hulu.com.au and Netflix.com.au and both have various trademarks registered with IP Australia

Buv as an example, Hulu's support on Twitter (@hulu_support ) does tweet to many Australians that they'd like to get intenational streaming rights for here but do not provide a timeframe for doing so to launch locally.

Yet, Hulu is already avaiable in Japan since September 2011 which is their first international market so far but they can't comment on future international launches. It's a paid service over there.

I find some of our networks catch-up sites to b inferior to Hulu as they're not in one place. Interestingly the ABC is a content partner with Hulu in the US but not 9,7, Ten.

ABC is brilliant for iView as they have a great array of content, all esay to get to. SBS's shows can be watched on iOS devices, but p other catchup services like PLUS7 and NineMSN can't.

Ada

2

imo Quickflix is our best chance to see anything like Netflix in Australia. their whole model is based on Netflix and they received a massive boost with HBO becoming a major share holder (16% i believe).

Having said that though, Netflix has to grow (otherwise feel the wrath of shareholder) which means it's highly unlikely they'll never enter Australia, so I'd be surprised if Quickflix wasn't a takeover target given it's wide array of content deals and established member base (120,000 i think i read somewhere??)..makes you wonder if this was their idea all along

Comments are now closed.

Most Popular Reviews

Follow Us

Best Deals on GoodGearGuide

Shopping.com

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Latest Jobs

Shopping.com

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?