01.The current situation
Australian viewers get a raw deal when it comes to watching our favourite TV shows. We pay more, and often content isn’t accessible how and when we want it. CHOICE examines why that’s the case.
In the US, online streaming services for TV and movies are affordable and flexible, providing lots of content on many different devices. A Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription is cheap and will give you a generous selection of TV series and movies to watch online whenever and wherever it suits.
In Australia, Quickflix starts at twice the price of Netflix, only streams some TV shows and movies, and charges extra to watch certain content.
A cable TV subscription is also expensive in Australia and doesn’t provide back seasons on demand. Similarly, iTunes Australia gives you access to some of these shows, but each new series costs around $35 per season, or $3 per episode.
TV networks and movie studios aren't keeping up with changes in technology and viewer desires, and often failing to offer content directly to paying consumers. Some fans turn to piracy when they might otherwise have paid for content if it was available at a reasonable price and in a way that suits them.
Piracy undermines the industry, but to counter it the industry needs to change to meet the needs of consumers and keep up with advances in technology.
Australian and US overview
- Netflix in the US costs only $US8 per month and features a comprehensive range of movies and TV shows including Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, House of Cards and Arrested Development. Extensive back catalogues for many series are available for instantaneous viewing.
- In Australia, Quickflix subscription costs range from $15 to $35 per month, and you pay extra to watch some movies and TV shows. Also, it still uses DVDs for new release movies.
- Some Australian consumers use free browser plugins such as Hola to access Netflix in the US.
- US Amazon has a subscription service called Amazon Prime that costs $US79 per year which lets you stream TV shows and movies and even borrow eBooks.
- iTunes and Amazon in the US screen popular shows such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men, but they’re not available until after they screen on the cable channel because of network deals.
- In Australia, iTunes provides downloads for TV shows that are available to watch a little while after they screen on Foxtel. A season pass to these shows costs about $35. While delayed, this is on par with, or even slightly cheaper in some cases, than the US.
- In the US, there is a choice of cable networks with different packages and prices.
- Australians are limited to Foxtel and subscriptions are expensive.
- In Australia, free-to-air TV series usually screen behind the US and scheduling can be disrupted or delayed by other programs. For example, SBS recently screened an older season of Mad Men while the latest season was showing in the US.
Video: CHOICE on digital streaming and geo-blocking
CHOICE takes a look at digital streaming, geo-blocking and internet piracy and sends a clear message to media outlets and content providers in Australia.