We live under the yoke of a many decades old media delivery system.
You can see it when you turn on your television. You can hear it when you listen to the radio. You can feel it when you go to work.
If the last few, tumultuous weeks in the world of Australia’s video-on-demand industry have taught us anything, it’s that big companies are out to protect every cent of revenue they earn, in any way possible.
Second to that, they aim to deliver an appropriate quantity of streaming media content to customers.
But considering some of the recent comments made on this topic, it appears the latter is being done almost begrudgingly. French playwright Moliere couldn’t have written a better farce if he’d tried; it’s a right bloody mess.
But it’s not all doom and gloom
Through this cacophony of noise has come the occasional glimmer of hope for the consumer, like the price drop of a previously expensive service, or another rumour about the unconfirmed launch of Netflix Australia.
The reality is, we already have perfectly reasonable streaming media services, accessible right now, across a variety of traditional and new digital platforms. With more services on the cusp of launch, our range of choices is about to boom.
The question we’re now left to ask, is: How can Netflix cut through Australia’s legacy distribution deals, which our homegrown companies have managed to navigate successfully for a number of years?
There is a real possibility that Netflix Australia may be hamstrung before the doors officially open.
The natives are already here
For our native streaming media companies, innovation has been the key to working within the system, to provide flexible entertainment solutions that consumers want.
For online streaming media company Quickflix the key to remaining attractive, while at the same time competitive, is responding to these needs and wants.
“We are the only streaming service offering both subscription and premium pay-per-view,” said Quickflix founder and CEO Stephen Langsford.
“[Quickflix] is available over the largest range of devices – everything from Smart TVs, game consoles, mobile and tablets.”
This broad approach has seen Quickflix’s digital streaming content grow by roughly a quarter annually, with more than 50 per cent of that content being delivered to mobile devices and Smart TVs.
Likewise, for EzyFlix – a non-subscription streaming media service – flexibility is king.
“Because EzyFlix.tv is not a subscription service, we are able to offer all the latest new releases from every major Hollywood studio,” said Ezyflix CEO Craig White.
“And we can offer them up to two weeks earlier than they are available to buy or rent on DVD or rent online.”
Same same but different
On the face of it, it would seem that all a new competitor in the market – like the Nine/Fairfax joint venture, StreamCo, or Netflix – needs to do, is take a similar approach.
But White is frank when he outlines the hurdles of doing business in Australia, which he outlines as a trident of challenges:
“Securing content rights, which requires a good business plan, patience and deep pockets; securing world-class technologies; and securing customers.”
For White, this is part of a “10 years-plus journey.”
For Langsford, one of the biggest challenges of offering streaming services to an Australian public is the take-up of new technology.
“It’s a new concept for mainstream consumers and there is a confusing array of devices and propositions to consider,” said Langsford.
Nightmare on Easy Street
For any new company entering the market, what first appears to be shooting fish in a barrel, is actually a maze of red tape and distribution nightmares.
It’s no surprise that Netflix’s unofficial meetings with rights holders haven’t gone as smoothly as planned.
With the recent price reduction of Foxtel’s movies-on-demand service, Presto, this adds yet another comparable streaming media solution to the equation.
That reasonably priced and timely solution that Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull recently admitted was the solution to the dilemma of piracy, may be dawning.
Turnbull’s message to content rights holders, the ones who set prices, is simple:
“If you want to discourage piracy … the best thing you can do is to make content available globally, universally and affordably,” said Turnbull, in a recent radio interview.
“In other words, you just keep on reducing and reducing and reducing the incentive for people to do the wrong thing.”
Whether new services enter the market or not; Foxtel price drops or not; Australians already have a Netflix-style solution and its name ends with ‘flix.’ We’ll let you decide which one is best for you.