Netflix has finally announced a New Zealand launch date. It had been widely tipped they'd be entering the market in the coming months, but this week the Californian company announced that they'll be bringing their streaming service to NZ in March next year.
In case you're not aware, Netlix is a streaming TV and movie service. It's similar to existing players such as Lightbox and Quickflix in that you pay a flat monthly fee and can stream as many programmes and films as you want. The service launched in 2007 in the US and has quickly grown to be the biggest player in the streaming market there. Since then, they've expanded out to a handful of other countries including Canada, the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland.
So they're big internationally, but why is it a big deal? They have content, and they have a lot of good content too. Not only movies and TV shows, they also develop their own series. The highly successful House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey is actually an original Netflix production. So is Orange is the New Black and the final series of Arrested Development.
But this could be their downfall. A lot of these highly successful shows will already be locked up in licensing deals. For example, House of Cards was available on 3NOW for a month, then it was aired on TV3, and now Spark's Lightbox service has it available on their platform. This could mean that either Netflix will be able to offer it but not exclusively like they do in the US, or they may not have it at all. It was interesting to note that in the media release sent out, there was no mention of any of their existing titles - only new ones.
In fact the release was scant on detail. It mentioned new shows such as Marco Polo and BoJack Horseman which are scheduled to go on Netflix in the US over the coming months. It also said that they'll have critically acclaimed documentaries Virunga and Mission Blue, as well as stand-up comedy specials such as Chelsea Handler's Uganda Be Kidding Me and Jim Jefferies’ BARE, and a selection of "popular movies".
But like other streaming service launches this year, the full line up hasn't been confirmed. When we asked a Netflix spokesperson about what these popular movies would be or if they have shows like House of Cards, they couldn't tell us anything more but said that more will be known in the coming weeks and months.
Netflix's director of corporate communications and technology Cliff Edwards also told NBR this week that it's likely to only offer a "subset" of content compared to what they offer in the US due to licensing issues. If that's the case then thousands of rumoured NZ users already on the service using global mode or other ways to get around the geo-restrictions may not bother signing up to the local version, instead choosing to continue to pay for the full US service.
So the content offering in New Zealand may be an issue. But the other stumbling block they may come into is that with the amount of competition they may have come to the party too late. With Lightbox and Quickflix already on the market, Sky TV's service on the way, and the free-to-air broadcasters offering more on-demand content before broadcasting it, people might not be so keen to switch or sign up for an extra service.
However they do have one key advantage over the rest. Because they are massive, they have the money to invest in platforms and to buy premium content going forward. In their release they said it will be available at launch on smart TVs, tablets and smartphones, computers and a range of Internet-capable game consoles and set-top boxes. Quickflix is already there and Lightbox is still working to get on all platforms. This week they announced their service is available on Samsung devices including their Smart TVs, but not all Android devices yet. I think we'll also see new original series not being sold to broadcasters here to sure up their offering, and they'll bid aggressively for premium content they don't already produce.
The extra competition is good and we'll see three streaming providers work to be better than each other. At the end of the day, that's good for you and me - the consumer. We'll get more TV and movies than we can take in, and we'll get it for a fair price as they fight it out in the market.