The New Daily

One month in: why Netflix Australia is a letdown

Limited content, streaming issues and competition leave us feeling deflated.

Even hits like 'Orange is the New Black' have failed to impress.

Like a huge wave rolling in from a bountiful ocean of home entertainment, Netflix has hit Australia in a big way. Glorious as it may be, don’t expect a Grail solution for your entertainment woes.

• How to bypass Foxtel to watch Game of Thrones
• The five coolest things you can do the internet

When it launched on March 24, we marvelled as Netflix opened up a world of premium TV dramas and comedies, blockbuster, cult and documentary cinema, and a healthy dose of family and children’s entertainment. But in some ways, we had drunk the Kool-Aid.

Soon after launch it was discovered that Netflix US subscribers enjoy around six times as much content as Australian subscribers. We’re talking around 1100 titles in Australia versus over 7000 in the US, give or take.

For the roughly 200,000 Australians accessing Netflix US via VPN at the time the service launched in Australia, that’s not a great incentive to disconnect and pay the Aussie way.

Even with original Netflix content – like House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Daredevil, Marco Polo, The Adventures of Puss in Boots … the list goes on – why would you opt for a compromised service? That ‘huge wave’ feels more like a ripple in the water.

The competition

HouseOfCards

House of Cards may not be enough to help Netflix Australia increase its market share.

When we examine the competition, the situation gets a little more interesting.

At the time of launch, Australia already had three other subscription streaming media services to choose from: Quickflix, Presto and Stan. Many in the industry believed adding a fourth to the ranks was madness, but Netflix were betting on their prestige to sell subscriptions.

Founder and CEO of Australian streaming media service and Netflix’s biggest competitor, Quickflix, Stephen Langsford is upbeat about the arrival of Netflix.

“We always knew we’d be joined by competitors,” said Langsford.

“The prize is more people learning about an alternative to traditional broadcast TV. We’ve now got more shoulders to the wheel to increase awareness.”

Presto and Stan decided this race would be run by throwing megabucks into above the line marketing. Netflix opted for an entirely digital campaign.

Yes, each streaming service has exclusive content to trumpet – Netflix has House of Cards, Stan has Better Call Saul – however, devoting yourself to one particular service may still leave you with an entertainment itch to scratch.

The transactional edge

netflix_australia_01

Aussies who use a VPN to access the US version of Netflix have little incentive to switch.

‘Transactional viewing’ is when a movie or TV series is released first to users who either pay to own content outright or rent for a limited time. It’s only after this exclusive sale and rental period that content becomes available to regular streaming media subscribers.

“There’s definitely a place for first-run content, but sometimes I think too much is made of it,” said Langsford.

“There’s a huge demand for content that may be subject to hold-backs, like Game of Thrones, available through Foxtel for an exclusive period. But there will also be huge demand for it when it becomes available in a transactional form.”

Quickflix offers a way to lessen the blow of exclusive content deals, by letting subscribers buy or rent content before it becomes available in a streaming capacity.

Netflix Original content may be a cost effective alternative to offering transactional viewing, but as Langsford says without it, meeting demand during the exclusive release period is impossible.

Why else would his company have seen a 6 per cent growth in paying subscribers in the last quarter when both Stan and Netflix hit the scene?


Before Netflix Australia’s arrival, The New Daily rated Quickflix, Presto and Stan. Here’s what we found


The technological failure

copper-wires-010515-newdaily

Australian ISPs are struggling to cope with the high volume of data streaming services demand.

From a technological point of view, many Australians who threw themselves into Netflix – possibly their first streaming media service – found they weren’t capable of streaming gigabytes of glorious high-definition movies and TV, their internet sputtering and choking on the bandwidth required.

In the first few weeks after Netflix’s launch, many users reported slow internet speeds, particularly during the prime viewing window between 6pm and 11pm.

For Langsford, the ISPs have no one to blame but themselves.

“The new streaming services are exposing ISPs who can’t provide a decent service,” Langsford says.

“I’ve seen the commentary and finger pointing, but I think there’s clearly a need for investment to support what everyone has known has been coming for a long time.”

Netflix previously indicated that internet speed and data caps were a concern when approaching the Australian market, but Langsford disagrees.

“The marketing promotion around metered versus unmetered content is a bit of a red herring,” Langsford says.

“Clearly some providers are providing such large caps that the concern of metering falls away.”

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He refers to recent promotions that saw ISPs offer customers unmetered Netflix usage to help overcome data cap restrictions and obviate the need to switch to a higher plan.

However, even Netflix now view these partnerships as a mis-step. The company recently stated in it’s quarterly report to shareholders that aligning with Australian ISPs may have had an exclusionary outcome, and that it will not engage in the practice in the future.

The one-month verdict

thumbs down turn down a job

So far, Netflix has been unimpressive.

There can be no doubt that Netflix has been a great addition to the streaming media landscape in Australia.

But although it’s given many viewers a greater choice of material to consume and greater flexibility of viewing, it’s also proven no Grail solution to a country so long held in the grips of a linear broadcast system and a slowly degrading telecommunications network.

Until the streaming services available iron out better content deals for themselves – basically, spend more money on content – and Australian telcos put more money behind their networks, chances are you’ll continue channel hopping for a few years to come.

The New Daily contacted Netflix for comment.

  • PRB

    Have to honestly disagree 100%. Since Netflix has been available our household has watched everything except sports on what is clearly an outdated form of media service. If Netflix or its competitors can get ahold of sport contracts there will be zero need for it in my own and the vast majority of homes around the country. Siting infrastructure as a weakness in a product does not reduce its value or merit. considering the lack of anything quality on free to air it is a blessing and will deservingly continue to receive the subscriptions it deserves for its services.

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi PRB, It would be great if all Australians to experience the stability and quality you are.

  • Big Frank

    I’m on the free trial of Netflix with free download from my ISP. As stated in the article Netflix doesn’t have much content. Indeed I haven’t found anything that I want to watch – I don’t have a lot of time so I am reluctant to invest in a series or watch B-grade or lower movies. Indeed not a single movie on my “to watch” list on Quickflix and elsewhere is available on Netflix.

    There are plenty of options with my time:
    1. Catch up on shows I have been too disorganised to record on BluRay on ABCs iView
    2. Free downloadable movies on SBS On Demand (200 titles atmo)
    3. Watch the 40 movies from live TV I have recorded on an aging DVD player before the hard drive dies.
    4. Continue with Quickflix (discs plus streaming) but it’ll be a while before I rejoin because of 1, 2 and 3.
    5. Get free DVDs from the nearby library.
    6. I might soon need a VPN to send encrypted work emails so I can surf the world for content including foreign country equivalents of iView and SBS On Demand – I couldn’t get Getflix to work.
    7. Go to the pub down the road when I want to watch sport that’s only on Foxtel.

    From my point of view these streaming services are useless until they work out a way to share their content with each other and still turn a profit – only an idiot would subscribe to all of them.

    Question: Why would anyone want to watch a movie on anything other than an LCD TV with decent speakers attached if they have one. I only pay about $70/month for my broadband, which is very fast and doesn’t run out of download.

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi Big Frank, That’s a well-rounded list of entertainment options. Catch-up services in Australia are very good, provided you catch content before it cycles out of the system. Mind you, with content refreshed on streaming services on a regular basis as well, cost becomes the real differentiator.

      • Rocky Rocky

        Honestly, Quickflix has been my one true love for media content rental since 2007 and there is no way Netflix can steal my heart with such a laughable amount of content. Netflix is hamstrung by lack of a DVD library which gives you 50 times the range on Quickflix. No way am I gonna stick around after the free trial and not gonna recommend it to anyone either.

    • Rocky Rocky

      Sounds similar to my list. All these whingers just need to learn to live with a Swedish buffet of options rather than expect 1 filling steak (the steak will need pigs to fly before it happens in Aus).

      I use the library, Quickflix, Netflix, iTunes, Google Play, SBS on Demand for different titles (just fish around to see where a title pops up and Quickflix is the most reliable on variety). I also buy DVDs from a variety of places (including from overseas) if I can’t rent them, and use the National Archive for hard to find Australian content.

      If I just used Netflix, I would die of boredom. Something no one has mentioned is that they have very little prestige content – most of their library is really low brow stuff.

  • CultOfOne

    I got 6 months free Netflix with a phone plan from Optus and have been enjoying it a lot. In fact I am looking at getting rid of Foxtel at $100 per month and having Netflix and one other subscription service.

    With SBS on demand and ABC iview etc I am more than happy to try life without Foxtel

  • Steve

    HBO launch their Netflix style service this year. Watch out Presto and Foxtel. Showtime for me will be via my VPN for this service as well….

  • Richard Fielding

    You can thank Abbott and Turnbull for the terrible streaming woes which are likely to get worse as the network gets older

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi Richard, Yes, as the network gets older AND as more users use services that require greater bandwidth. Even when the revised version (FTTN) of the NBN is finished, 25Mbps will be a fraction of what’s required by the average household.

  • elsbrook

    Limited content? Well I guess that depends on how many hours per day one watched NETFLIX. I have no complaints about it.

  • Sam Stevenson

    What do you all expect video streaming via copper wire this is why we were supposed to get optical network it is the only way one can deliver that sort of data to everyone. Cutting back the NBN network was stupid. I recently had a family member from northern UK come over and stayed with us for a while and he noticed that my internet was very slow and he asked me if I had dial up internet I replied no I have adsl 2 he laughed and told me that my internet speed was standard dial up speed over there and every house had optic fibre connected and he was really surprised that we still had copper to our homes so if you have thses streaming services to your home you are just throwing your money away which equals more GST for Tony Abbott and uncle Turnbull & Co. Remember they were the ones who canned the NBN

    • Jaws BigFish

      I love it when people put forward anecdotal evidence in support of a position or argument. It means diddly squat! Just one persons experience and/or opinion based on their own limited experience. Has your family member used the internet from “ALL” locations right across the UK? I don’t think so. Sounds like sibling riivalry. Try some facts. The Fibre To The Home (FTTH) council of Europe have the statistics to show that the UK doesn’t even rank!

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2015/02/uk-remains-absent-2015-global-ultrafast-ftth-broadband-ranking.html

      You can go to some households in Australia that have faster internet than some households in the UK and visa versa, it means nothing in isolation. You need to look at all the numbers. From the above article it seems the UK has their problems in this area also. The Brits are still doing plenty of copper wire also. Big bucks to change, takes time.

  • Lambsie

    Netflix et al subscribers are not the only ones suffering since the introduction of these services. Since their introduction my Singapore based ISP can only provide me with a service that continually drops out (or won’t connect at all) during peak times – and by peak times I mean any time that the school kids are at home including school holidays.
    So if you’re on the Gold Coast, beware the ‘animal based’ ISP – they’ve oversold their available bandwidth.

  • Dan Buchler

    If you use the Unblock-us service you can join Netflix Australia and use Unblock-us to choose any Netflix region you wish to view: i.e., US, UK or whatever. This way you avoid the exchange rate issue and having to falsify a US address etc.

  • harry

    We don’t have the internet quality that is enjoyed by Europe, North America or even third world countries, its no good allround, so get rid of it fast.

  • Steven

    Wow, who could have possibly forseen this situation? If only we had fibre to the node NBN. Oh, wait….

    • Mark Gambino

      Well played, Steven. Well played 😉

  • Ineedacoffee

    So glad i didnt bother signing up

  • Cee Kay

    While the limited content is true, I’ve been thoroughly entertained for my entire first month. It is much cheaper than my Poxtel subscription too. I’ve used quickflix in the past and it was truly limited in content – that may have change now but first impressions last. In comparison, netflix has a lot of content – seriously enough to keep you binge watching for a long time IF you aren’t already up on some big name TV series. No idea about presto and stan but aren’t they both part of the Foxtel empire? As for the internet issue – fortunately for me it works perfectly on my 2MB/s download speed, I know not all have been this lucky but Aust. at large can blame ourselves for this for voting in a govt. that destroyed the NBN. I for one will be keeping my netflix Aust. subscription and have already set the wheels in motion to severely downgrade my foxtel package (the sport keeps them alive).

  • Vulch

    I’ve found the service to be pretty good! Though i admit to having a fairly fast internet service also, which helps. Technicaly I’ve found it to be excellent, simply ‘pay and play’ via my Apple TV. Unlike Preto, Foxtel Play, and Quickflix streaming all of which I tried, and found usuable with signifcant technical problems. Netflix excellent in that regard. Sure the content is limited, but I’ve certainly had a month’s worth of stuff to watch (some excellent doco’s!) and content will improve over time. Aside from iTunes, this is the best online service I’ve come across so far.

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi Vulch, I agree on all fronts, but as I have a 50Mbps NBN connection, have to remember I am one of few people not encountering difficulties streaming. We also need to keep in mind that streaming any service is virtually impossible for most regional customers. Netflix has many years of experience in streaming to deliver a stable platform, unlike the other services you’ve mentioned. Once our national telecommunications infrastructure improves, with luck most people will experience the service as you and I do.

  • We Wee

    It’s 2015 and in Australia whether I sign up for Netflix or Stan or Quickflix or Foxtel or any of them I can’t watch what I want, when I want, from one provider, even if I’m prepared to pay. And yet, I can watch what I want, when I want, for free…
    They all offer plans modelled on last century thinking (exclusive content, monthly fees) and wonder why we don’t rush to sign up. Why don’t all companies offer ALL programs, and charge me pay-per-view at a realistic rate ? $0.50 for an episode, $2.00 for a new release movie, $1 for older, seems about right. Who would pirate content if they could get those prices ? Who I choose to use each time will be based on service levels and special deals. There; fixed.

    • Felicity

      It seems a bit silly to expect a group of competitive services to all offer the same product. They need to have something to differentiate themsevles in order to be relevant.
      There are services which offer pretty much everything at a pay per view rate (Google Pay, iTunes etc). Unfortunately what you term a realistic rate, is that they term an unprofitable rate.

  • Sam Stevenson

    There success come down to the copper wire that arrive at our door unkike other countries that have fiber optic to there doors in the northern UK ADSL2 is equel to a standard phone connection to most of the population in the UK I had a relative visiting and compared my ADSL2 connection to sending smoke signals he was beside himself in laughter at my broadband speed he told me to use morse code to speed it up and these companies want to stream live video over copper that’s just plain dumb but the look are in control of it all

  • DavidM

    It seems a bit strange to focus on one of the streaming services and call it ‘unimpressive’ (with headline to match) when the others aren’t any better? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to discuss all of them when complaining about limited content. Not to mention, don’t they all suffer from the same download issues? Is newdaily funded by Fairfax perhaps? Haha! 😉

  • Peter Williamson

    I looked at quickflix about 6months ago and found that anything worth watching cost extra. I have found that Netflix has much much more content that I would watch. The kids have more things to watch than that could watch in years.
    I figured that for $9, I only have to watch 2 movies a month to get value.
    Hopefully by the time I have exhausted what they have now, thy will have added more of the content that Oz doesn’t get yet.

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi Peter, With many of us still using rental fees as a comparison, we’ll likely find transactional rates won’t come down any time soon. Still, by this standard for $9, or even $14 a month, it’s amazing value if you only watch a few hours a week.

  • Jordan Greentree

    You can’t bundle Foxtel with your internet / phone plan if you’re with Optus.

    • Tania DeLooper Te Kura

      I just signed up for foxtel through Optus 2 months ago – the $25 per month plan – so you definitely can. They also chucked in Fetch Tv for free, so I have Foxtel upstairs and Fetch downstairs.

  • kryckk

    I don’t understand the negativity in this article. You can’t expect something new to have everything all at once. When will you get the time to watch it all? There is plenty to watch since it has come out in addition to more coming. Considering good old uncle Rupert has everything else locked up in his castle, I think this is still good value for money. Over time we will get more. Give it time. The problem with reviews these days is that if it doesn’t have it all, its awful. Patience people! Give things a chance. I’m sure no one has watched all of Netflix yet…….

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi kryckk, You’re wrong! I’ve watched EVERYTHING! Sadly, no, not even I have time to watch everything on Netflix, owing to the copious amounts of comments that require a reply 😉

      Social media is breeding a generation of users unable to distinguish between negativity and a constructive examination based on facts. Read the piece again and you may notice praise for Netflix in there as well.

  • Bob Elsbrook

    I don’t know what’s up Mark’s nose but Netflix is the best thing for Oz TV in years. For $12 a month just what does he want . I wonder, does he have shares in Foxtel?

  • Cee Kay

    Foxtel got most of us with a nice % off deal too, just wait – you’ll get annoyed with them real quick. Endless repeats, constant technical problems and don’t even think about trying to contact the call centre for a prompt resolution of any problem you have. You may get lucky and genuinely enjoy it – but I urge you to go to the foxtel website and check out the forums now so you can get in early on the troubleshooting you’ll need to know.

  • caitsith01

    What a silly article.

    The technology problems are down to the Abbott government breaking the NBN. Of course, the problems show that Labor was on the money when it proposed to completely rebuild our national networking infrastructure.

    The content is decent – great compared to free to air TV – and will only grow. Of course, not much focus in the article about the fact that it IS 1080p and 5.1 for content produced at this quality, unlike crappy FTA TV which is typically half that resolution and stereo. And now that Netflix has a beachead in Australia they will gradually improve the content, much as they have in the UK and Canada.

    And of course it costs a quarter or less of what basic Foxtel costs, and doesn’t require you to give money to Rupert Murdoch. For what, say, Netflix + Stan + one other service would cost you, you’re STILL spending less than you would spend on basic Foxtel.

    • Mark Gambino

      Hi caitsith01, Sometimes we all need a little silly in our lives.

    • Rocky Rocky

      Content is only decent if you’re a casual browser that woudl otherwise be flicking the TV channels. For a person with a very specific list of titles and picky tastes like me, Netflix just about makes me wanna smash my head against the wall. It doesn’t even have basic classics from decades ago!

  • Mark Gambino

    Hi nerdrrage, Perhaps this info may help sooth your concerns: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-13/new-daily-launches/5087940

  • Mark Gambino

    Hey Baghead, Great to hear! I’m a big fan of game console streaming. I use Netflix and Quickflix apps on my Xbox One, plus access movies and TV via the XBL Store. PS also have a great offering. nice work.

  • Kenny Smith

    Can we keep the internet for computer/data related content please. Put the video stuff on the TV sets.

  • Tassieboy

    I haven’t yet used Netflix but certainly am interested in checking it out soon. One of my concerns though, after reading all the above positive comments is, what Australian content is there on such a service as Netflix? Will this be another nail in our community’s exposure to our culture through screen entertainment?

  • Josh Loewen

    Hey Mark, I run a number of sites that list everything available on Netflix Australia, New Zealand, USA, etc (22 countries in all). We all also track *all* new titles released in every country on a daily basis. Let me know if you’re ever looking for details stats or comparisons for an article.

    info-at-netflixable-dot-com

    aus.whatsnewonnetflix.com
    netflixaustraliacompletelist.b…
    aus.istreamguide.com

  • Battlebroker

    Completely agree with the content part. The selection of individual movies is well beyond B level. Once you are through the more popular series there is virtually nothing left . The few good movies most have seen before. Overall the content sucks. At least Netflix offers plenty of time to work that out yourself – for free.

  • vas

    If anyone is showing their ignorance it is you. Do you live inside of a box?
    To suggest that there is no one living in the more isolated parts of the country is sheer stupidity. Ever heard of the thousands of farms and cattle stations. Do you have any idea how much it costs to lay fibre – it actually has to be buried underground – Duh. The total underground kms to every house is probably in the millions.
    The Labor imbeciles never even did a cost benefit analysis for a project that is going to cost in the tens of billions. Labour is very good at spinning up a story but not explaining how it is going to be funded, that’s why under Rudd / Gillard all that occurred was blowing away the budget and achieving little else.

  • madethatway

    Netflix is SO monumentally dull – unless you’re one of those people who feeds off the same tired old American crime and horror crap over and over again – that it made me want to gouge my own eyes out, Cancelled my sub and returned to reading novels – infinitely more entertaining.

  • Oscar Milde

    I was a subscriber of the US service for a couple of years, until they launched in AU. I used a DNS blocker & a US credit card and enjoyed the 8K-10k library available to US subscriber. When they launched in AU, they used software to find people like me and force them onto the AU service, which has about 10% of the content. It’s woeful by comparison. I tried Quickflix, and it’s even worse. We are geoblocked and offered rubbish services for more money compared to the US, in order to protect monopolies like Foxtel. If you are happy being gouged like this, you are a chump. The reason why Australians pay 2-3 times the price for everything is that they lie down and take it, they even defend companies gouging policies.

  • Rocky Rocky

    Not at all. Quickflix has a DVD library of 50,000 titles – it’s the go to place for the hard to find – vs just over a 1000 titles on Netflix thanks to the streaming only model.

  • madethatway

    Meanwhile, a year later in Australia and Netflix is as captivating as watching paint dry.

    According to the UK’s Daily Mail last year, Netflix ‘promised’ to allow Aussies full access to US content “by 2016”.

    Have they kept that promise? Of course not. They’re busier than ever blocking paying customers from doing so.

    Business in Australia is the same as politics in Australia – give ’em nothing, take ’em nowhere, break all promises and hump their wallets while you’re at it.

    What I want to know is, why? And who’s the ultimate arsehat behind these bullshite decisions?

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