Stan is already here, Presto added television and the king of streaming Netflix finally has a launch date. Is 2015 the year Australians will embrace TV and movie streaming, and reduce piracy?
Obviously, piracy will not stop altogether – there will always be a group conditioned to getting the latest TV shows and movies for free, and they’re never going to pay a cent. Plus, there’s still an issue of accessibility, as we still don’t have a service like Hulu Plus that offers ad-supported new episodes of current TV shows for a small monthly fee – and that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
However, with Netflix launching with House of Cards and a bunch of Disney content – aside from that we don’t really know what Netflix ANZ will look like compared to the US – and Stan promoting Better Call Saul as its flagship exclusive, streaming is poised to make a serious impact in Australia.
It’s only Presto that’s lagging behind, at $15 compared to Stan’s $10 for both TV and movies in standard definition – but if it makes the jump to HD and is delivered to more devices it’s back in the game. Netflix will launch with three tiers, with most expected to opt for HD and two devices – there’s also an Ultra HD option, although Netflix doesn’t have much 4K content, and an SD entry level subscription for those worried their internet can’t handle high definition.
I’ve been a Netflix addict for three years, and it’s changed how I consume content. Coupled with Hulu Plus for around $20 per month total, and switching between several Netflix regions, which is how it’s best used (despise marginally being against the TOS), I almost never even need to consider illegitimate means of consuming television. But it has changed my TV viewing habits, as I’m happy playing catchup.
I used to watch most shows as soon as they surfaced online. Now I start binge watching a series that’s already begun to mature, with several seasons on Netflix. It’s just so convenient. Complete seasons are readily available in full HD, there’s no waiting a week for a new episode and it’s perfectly legal. Plus, there are heaps of shows I haven’t watched before – or didn’t start watching from the beginning. There aren’t many for which I desperately need the latest episode to stave going mad; and on the odd occasion, there’s Hulu Plus or BBC iPlayer for the disconcerting worldwide streamer.
That’s the lingering problem with Australia’s burgeoning streaming landscape. Until there’s a service like Hulu, offering recent episodes, piracy will remain rampant. But at least Aussies have more options and strong competition, with Netflix, Stan and, to a lesser extent, Presto competing for your hard earned cash. While long term you’ll need to subscribe to at least two (probably more) services, it’s still considerably cheaper than pay TV – you’re looking at around $20-25 for both Netflix and Stan, compared to $35 for Foxtel’s cheapest package, full of ads, consumed by reruns and barely in HD.
More streaming services offer choice. While they mightn’t have an instant affect on curtailing piracy, I will be surprised if they don’t persuade Australian pirates to at least reduce their illegal activity; if not for the fear mongering about an impending crackdown on pirates, because it’s simply easier and well worth the price of a single pint per month. That’s the cost of entry we’re talking about here, a pint of Heineken.
It will take some time for the mindset to change, which is why the free trial is imperative, but Spotify and Pandora have shown we, as an entertainment culture, are willing to pay a fair, low, price for simple access to music through legal channels. I expect many will follow for TV and movies, when they experience the joy and self-loathing of binge watching four seasons of a show just discovered during a single weekend. You don’t need friends over the Easter long weekend when you’ve got all ten seasons of Friends ready to watch.
I’m interested to see how Australians embrace the streaming boom of 2015, while the rest of the Western world laughs at how long it’s taken. We have considerable roadblocks not faced by other nations – headlined by the staggering divide between internet speeds and a culture that’s accepted piracy, at least morally, as a solution to severely delayed release schedules. But the winds of change are upon us.
Everyone I’ve introduced to Netflix has initially been sceptical because of the lack of new content and mistrust of their internet speeds, but for $10 a month (using a US or UK account), they’ve all stayed past the free trial and spent many a late night catching up on all nine seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Netflix ANZ might launch with a depleted selection, but it opens its market to the technologically challenged, while the rest of us continue to surf between all regions, and that’s only a good thing. Who knows, if Stan and Presto actually get consoles apps and become more user friendly on devices that aren’t tablets, I might even start recommending those, as well.