Arrested Development, Netflix and geo-blocking

30 May 13 04:44PM EST
Post by Madison Cartwright  Madison Cartwright Google Plus
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On 26 May, season four of the cult-comedy series Arrested Development was released on the internet-streaming website, Netflix.

However, Netflix - which has exclusive broadcast rights to the show after its seven-year hiatus - is not available to Australian consumers. This means that Australians cannot officially access the show at all. 

In April CHOICE wrote to Netflix asking what legal options were available to Australian fans of the show. After receiving no response from the company by the broadcast date, we publicly published the letter on our Facebook page on Monday.  

The letter was shared on Facebook, and posted to Reddit where it has been viewed over 36,400 times. However it has received some criticism, so we thought we’d explain it a little further. 

The letter isn't just about Arrested Development and Netflix. It was about geo-blocking. It is about the fact Australian consumers are consistently discriminated against when it comes to accessing content, release windows and price. 

Arrested Development is a great example of the absurdity of the current situation. It has a strong fanbase in Australia, most of whom are not only willing to pay for it, but actually want to pay for it considering the problems it has had staying on air. 

But they are not given that opportunity because the show is exclusively available on a service they can’t access. I’m sure they’ll get it eventually, perhaps on Foxtel 2-3 months from now, probably in a package with dozens channels that they will never watch, but still have to pay for. Oh, and of course a 12-month contract. 

We didn’t expect Netflix to throw up their hands and surrender. In fact Netflix probably has little say in whether they can broadcast in Australia. The fact that they can’t doesn’t help them, it helps the companies that do get to broadcast in Australia, and the studios which sell them their content. 

So why write to Netflix? Because we wanted them to say that. We can speculate all we want on what the studios may and may not have in their contract with Netflix and other content distributors. But we want to move the public debate beyond this sort of speculation to start having a real conversation about these issues. 

At the IT pricing inquiry Apple said their iTunes products cost more in Australia because record labels charge more. If studios were doing the same thing with movies and TV shows, wouldn’t we want to know? 

Of course consumers can trick websites into thinking they are not from Australia, and this is the course of action we recommend for consumers. However, not everyone has the know-how or the confidence to do this, and more to the point this isn’t something we should have to do. 

CHOICE isn’t campaigning for an Australia with Netflix; we are campaigning for an Australia where consumers can access the content they want, the way that they want, at a price that is fair and reasonable, without resorting to criminal activity

Our letter to Netflix is not a petition or an ultimatum. It is an attempt to open up an honest dialogue about access to media in this country. 

If you don’t ask questions, you don’t get answers- it’s as simple as that. 

CHOICE’s campaign on geo-blocking: 

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