The fog of war between streaming media content providers became thicker this week with the announcement that Foxtel and the Seven Network were joining forces to combat the imminent arrival of Netfix Australia.
The deal means television content from the Seven Network will become available on Foxtel’s Presto service, which until recently was a movies on-demand service only.
It also means a huge win for TV lovers as the range of choices available explodes.
There’s no confirmation yet on exactly what Seven content will stream via the Presto portal, but you can bet the deal will grant Presto heavy access to recently released TV shows from overseas: programs such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, 30 Rock, Mr Selfridge, Downton Abbey, Parks and Recreation, Family Guy and more.
Maybe don’t hold your breath for Home & Away or V8 Supercars just yet.
This new version of Presto will also feature content from Foxtel’s existing channels, such as various HBO premium TV series.
The deal with Seven also comes at a time when Foxtel and US media company Discovery Communications have placed a bid to acquire the Ten Network.
Taking over the ailing network may grant Foxtel access to television and movie content available via Ten’s deals with major studios like 20th Century Fox Television, Paramount and Sony, to name a few.
Too little, too late?
Stephen Langsford, Founder and CEO of Australian streaming media and DVD rental service Quickflix, believes the deal reinforces the growing strength of the industry.
“The anticipated announcement from Seven and Foxtel is more evidence that steaming is about to enter the mainstream and 2015 promises to be very exciting,” said Langsford.
Not surprisingly, for Langsford, Quickflix’s defensive tack lies in the strength of the company’s delivery methods and deep catalogue.
“As the leading streaming player in market today, available over the widest array of devices and the only service offering subscription and pay per view, Quickflix will continue to focus on delivering a great service,” said Langsford.
“One that is complemented by its unique online DVD service, which gives users access to the largest range of movies and TV shows in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Seven’s move to partner with an existing pay-TV provider is a smart one for a broadcast network – why build your own service when you can piggyback off a friend’s?
Back door still an option
But with US television giants HBO and CBS recently announcing standalone streaming video services, many Australians may opt to access their programming via VPN services instead.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, connection allows a user to bypass geographical restrictions on services available within certain countries only, giving them a backdoor to content technically unavailable in their location.
Of course, industrious viewers wanting the best of both worlds could always subscribe to Netflix Australia and access HBO via a VPN to enjoy content currently available only to Foxtel/Presto customers.
For example, a user wanting to watch the latest episode of Game of Thrones before firing up Netflix’s vast catalogue of movies and TV would need only access two services.
With many streaming media packages now priced around the $10 per month mark, the way you watch TV in 2015 could cost you no more than $20 per month for two different services.
Too much choice?
For Craig White, CEO of Presto competitor Ezyflix, the amount of services available to the public in 2015 could prove unsustainable.
“Nowhere in the world are there four viable SVOD services, even in the United States,” said White.
“The American market is more advanced than us by five or six years – there are three viable services: Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus – but how can Australia sustain four services in 2015?”
“We already know the threshold for people is lower than $40 a month, otherwise Foxtel would’ve attracted more subscribers over the last 19 years.”
In a bid to make download media more affordable for Australians, Ezyflix recently reduced the cost of new release movies to match US prices.
Considering the company will now feature new release download-to-own content years ahead of its competitors, Presto may find it hard to balance audience demands.
“The Seven and Foxtel deal is a wonderful thing,” said White.
“It’s going to enlighten consumers en masse about why viewing video online is easier, but they’re still not going to have new release movies: they’re not made available to them until many years after release.
“I like to use this analogy: you can’t go to Pizza Hut and order a Big Mac.”
Come 2015, Australians will be spoiled for choice, with price soon a non-issue. The weapons of this war will become release dates and depth of content.
All you have to decide is whether you want pizza or a hamburger.