Stan, Presto, Netflix - Australia has finally got a timely offer of internet TV, to add to our national collective ABC iView obsession.
Last night my husband turned to me and said - "So it's $9.50 per month for Netflix here, shall we?" In our case this question was mostly rhetorical, it was always going to be yes.
It's easily worth this to me to see season 3 of House of Card (even if we cancel later- which we won't) and given I am holding my breath for Homeland to return, my need for meaty drama will have to be satiated by Netflicks and HoC s3.
A lot's been written in the Australian press about Stan, Presto and Netflix but the thing that amuses me the most when I look at all the commentary, is how people want to complain about the titles on offer.
"There's not as much choice as the US Netflix store."
"It's all just old stuff, we've seen before."
I find it so funny that Australian bloggers and mainstream Digital/Television media keep returning to this issue - when it's super simple.
Content - be it TV or Digital needs initial production investment funds to be created. Until Netflix's original commissioning of House of Cards, it's been TV that's pulled together these investments to produce original content. Here's the crucial part - financing relies on international territory sales to get a return on production investments. So, you sell content rights, territory by territory e.g.: Australia, Europe, the Middle East or sometimes country by country, to recover investments and make profits, after something has been made.
Alternatively productions will gather pre-sales for international territories (which are larger initial investment amounts) that help raise the production costs and guarantee simultaneous broadcast times in these territories, when financing the original content. However, they'll still try to sell licences, after content has been produced, to make profits. This business model is the reason for a lag in release times, for content availability upon different platforms and in different regions around the world.
Ok, that might be a dense couple of paragraphs, but was that too hard to explain? I just don't believe that Australian audiences are incapable of understanding the business of television. If critics and bloggers would care to make this point, they could then help move the conversation to more pressing concerns.
Instead of echoing toddler style rants 'I want Game of Thrones, now - for free', how about - 'how do we spell broadband network and will it be good enough?' Brrrooooowwwddd Baaaaannnndddd.
As Foxtel have struggled with, Australian's typically want something for nothing. We want all of our content and we want it now and we want it for free. A luxury that grownups in other content territories around the world, realise is not always possible. Perhaps unlike the British, who are aware of paying a TV licence and therefore feel a huge sense of ownership over their beloved BBC, Australian's respond differently to what's on offer in our territory beyond what their tax dollars un-specifically contributes to.
The people's love for the ABC brand is a well documented fact, but they simultaneously love the rest of commercial free view content, (or is that - 'love to hate' TV). Australia's love to announce how much they hate TV (unlike the British who proudly love it), but Aussies in the privacy of their homes, still watch - still engage - still vote for the latest Idol and are fairly agnostic about the spectrum of subject matter, from entertainment, to food competitions, sports and other genre's on offer.
Sometimes you could imagine the Australian audience as a middle aged bloke on the couch with his arms folded saying "ok then, try to please me." At odds with the casting of Australia's Gogglebox, but nonetheless a collective mood in the Australian audience prevails - "do your best and by the way, I'm probably not going to pay for it."
So, I wonder how many people will pay for STAN, PRESTO and or NETFLICKS, plus a Foxtel Subscription, while switching their internet enabled HD screens into the Freeview mode for easier access to the multichannel environment and still fork out for cinema tickets. As we watch the price of electricity go up and our broadband subscriptions get pushed to the ends of data limits, pay world city prices for real estate, education, health insurance, as we debate the merits of GST increases - I am curious, what choices will Aussie's prioritise?
Where will people see value? The time of an average family is pretty limited, while consuming vast amounts of content on one hand, on another they haven't had time to give 50 hours to all the great TV drama's they might have. Perhaps it's worth paying for old stuff they haven't seen yet, and well 'serviced' media critics who make it their business to see everything, may not be in the best place to understand what perceived value there is, in curating back catalogue for subscription services.
In any case, loud voices will continue to shout in Aussie accents at STAN, PRESTO and Netflix - "Boring! I've seen all that!" Which may be so loud, their neighbours won't make the choice at all. Who even has the time, to fill out another profile/credit card sign up service? The very same people who don't have time to login and cancel the subscription down the line. On the balance of this, I think there's some hope for these services.
I eagerly await the unfolding of time and the last instalment from G.R.R Martin on any medium!
Regarding HOUSE OF CARDS series 4
I was generally disappointed but addicted. I feel the problem was balancing the high stakes and any wins for the Underwoods. It was totally lacking. The series charted #fail for the couple, for their first term as President and First Lady/ Diplomat.
I found it entirely unbelievable that Clare Underwood (Robin Wright) would melt down about her relationship with Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), in the White House. It was petulant and not in character for the masters of goal setting. Surely they would have realised - they've arrived.
This could only be leading to Season 5 's drama, swinging around the theme, that they are their only equal adversary. That nothing inflicted externally can compare for the damage they can do mutually. So perhaps it's failing was that the series is on it's way to another series, but I was disappointed by the writing.