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One day after the details were leaked to popular journalism source Reddit, Netflix has confirmed the Australian pricing and content library for its local service, which goes live tomorrow (Tuesday 24 March 2014).
Netflix is an American video on demand streaming service that has quickly grown in popularity as users gravitate from cable and network TV, physical DVD sales and rentals and piracy to its vast and changing catalogue of films and TV programming. In addition to popular studio and independent films and second-run TV series, Netflix also produces its own content, including m multi-episode series, documentaries, stand-up comedies, all of which are dumped in blocks on the service, so users can binge watch them. One noticeable omission from Netflix’s oeuvre is sport, which remains the purview of subscription TV networks and, to a lesser extent, network TV.
There are three monthly subscription tiers for Netflix in Australia (face-value US pricing):
- $8.99: single-stream standard definition plan (US $7.99)
- $11.99: Two-stream high-definition plan (US $8.99)
- $14.99: Four-stream 4K ultra-high definition family plan (US $11.99)
These prices are broadly considered on par with or slightly cheaper than expected. The middle tier, offering two HD streams, is expected to be the most popular, while offering a subscription for single digits — essentially $9 per month — Netflix is right in the sweet spot for customers to purchase for a trial and then never cancel. Even if a user was to watch only one film per month, that is still only half the cost of going to the pictures.
The library has also been confirmed and it will include many popular titles from Netflix’s well-regarded cache of original programs (we’re currently sourcing a complete list from Netflix’s Australian reps). These will include all extant series of Orange Is The New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, House Of Cards, Marco Polo and Bojack Horseman (incidentally, he author of this post’s favourite TV show of 2014). Other popular shows on the service include Lost, Heroes, Prison Break, Doctor Who, How I Met Your Mother, The IT Crowd, Arrested Development (incidentally, the author of this post’s all-time favourite comedy program).
Netflix is expected to be very popular with Australians at launch, and over 200,000 antipodeans are believed to already be accessing the service by using virtual private networks (VPNs) to make it appear that they are based in the United States, rather than in Australia. The service will be available on most Smart TVs, gaming devices, smartphones and tablets, as well as on PCs and Macs.
Retailers would do well to have a Smart TV set up in store with a Netflix subscription on-the-ready to demonstrate the capabilities, with the end-goal being the sale of a highly-featured, premium panel. Netflix gift cards are also being sold at retail, and make for an excellent upsale opportunity when retailing a compatible device.
The impending launch of Netflix in Australia, alongside the previously launched streaming on demand services Stan (Fairfax and Channel Nine) and the older but troubled Quickflix, has led to much media speculation that Foxtel customers will cancel their TV subscriptions en masse, a phenomenon called ‘cord cutting’. My view is that products like Netflix are complements to Foxtel, not replacements. Foxtel has the nation’s deepest and broadest range of content, including its most prized asset, hours and hours of live sport, meaning that it is very hard for any newcomer to convincingly market itself as a true alternative.
There is no doubt that casual Foxtel customers, those that have the service because they like to be entertained for a few hours here and there, will find Netflix an adequate and much cheaper option, but for greedy content consumers, those that love watching a footy match, a film and a riveting documentary all in one day, Netflix will simply not suffice.
The real losers from the arrival of Netflix are likely to be the TV networks, viz Channels Seven, Nine and Ten. Why would anyone watch an standard definition TV program riddled with advertisements when they can stream a full series ad-free and in HD, all for only $12 per month? Those that don’t care about HD or SD can do it for even less.
As Netflix grows and its content library bulges more with locally produced TV series (and it already boasts several titles, mostly from the ABC, like Rake, Summer Heights High and We Can Be Heroes), one can imagine plenty of viewers opting for the ad-free post-broadcast bingewatch option, especially when TV networks are liable to delay the start of the program, change the date or time with little-to-no warning and then pack it full of ads for Progressive Car Insurance.