Netflix might be coming to Australia – film distributor Village Roadshow confirmed as much last week – but will local subscribers familiar with the US and Canadian offering be disappointed when it does?
Last week film and TV trade rag The Hollywood Reporter revealed that when Netflix is up and running in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg – the next list of places it is planning to set up shop – audiences won’t have access to all of the programming American subscribers take for granted. Most interesting is the Netflix original series House of Cards which in France is exclusively licensed to premium cable channel Canal+. The channel has dibs on the first two seasons of the critically acclaimed Kevin Spacey political drama but with the third season expected to have begun production in June, it would be fair to assume Netflix will be holding onto that for itself which makes for a convoluted viewing experience – watch the first two series on this channel but switch for the third? That would temper your binge watching urges.
Original shows like House of Cards are considered to be quite a draw for subscribers although when the streaming service’s first quarter earnings came out last year, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings, said: “What we’ve seen with House of Cards is a very nice impact but a gentle impact, not one that’s an overnight impact.”
Still the impact must be decent enough for Netflix to continue to produce its own content. Another of its original series, Orange is the New Black, has just been recommissioned for a third season. And in a bold move for both the host and Netflix, talk show queen Chelsea Handler has jumped ship from the E! Network to produce a late night show for the platform. While the media grapples with how a late show will work for an on-demand network, Netflix has also been busy saving fan favourite TV series like Arrested Development and The Killing making additional episodes long after the programs were axed by the channels which originally commissioned them. These shows were given an extended life after Netflix purchased the rights to run the abandoned series and saw solid viewership among its audiences.
So what does all this mean for us? While we might well see Netflix available locally, there’s no guarantee as to what we’ll get on the platform. Australian audiences have already had first hand experience of exclusive rights deals. Fans were up in arms when the most recent season of Game of Thrones was locked down by Foxtel and not made available for purchase on iTunes. Foxtel also has the local rights for Netflix’s House of Cards as well as a number of other films and programs that stream on the service in the US. And existing rights deals with free-to-air networks, as well as local streaming services like Quickflix and FetchTV, may well restrict further content from being available on an Aussie Netflix offering.
In the US, Netflix recently announced a $1 price increase making the service US$9 per month. By comparison Foxtel’s Presto, which allows users to stream a limited selection of Foxtel content and films, fetches $19.99. Based on the current AUS/US exchange rates, that’s quite a price difference. Is Foxtel passing on the high cost of securing local digital rights to its subscribers or is it just being greedy? If it’s the former, what is Netflix going to cost us? It only takes a quick look at the US iTunes store to know we often get shafted when it comes to viewing content compared to our American compatriots.
After having spent some time in the States last year, I got hooked on Netflix. The seamless availability of the service across multiple devices, the smart use of data to recommend programs and films that meet personal taste and, of course, the content, won me over. I’d love to see it available Down Under but the smart money is on the networks holding tightly to their existing rights deals and the result being an expensive, watered down version of the service. Which is a bit shit, really.