Netflix readies Australasian service

23 October, 2014 by IF

After months of conjecture Netflix looks highly likely to launch in Australia and New Zealand in late March or early April.

That’s according to distributors who are negotiating film and TV content deals with the US streaming giant.


The new season of House of Cards would be among the SVoD service’s first offerings Down Under, potentially a strong lure for subscribers.

The third series of the political drama, which stars Kevin Spacey, Law & Order’s Jenna Stern, Robin Wright and Nathan Darrow, is expected to launch in the US in February, as did the earlier series.

Foxtel aired the first two series of the Netflix production licensed via Sony Pictures TV, but Netflix withheld the rights to the third season.

However Netflix's Australian feed will bear little similarity to the domestic service, at least for the first year or so, because Foxtel owns the SVoD rights to most of the desirable shows. For example, Foxtel has a life-of-series deal on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black.

“Netflix aren't competing with Foxtel for first-run pay window rights yet, just deep library stuff,” one Australian executive told IF. “And they aren't paying much. So I don't reckon they'll have newer product until a year or so in.”

Netflix acquired worldwide SVoD rights to Warner Bros’ Batman prequel series Gotham but won’t be able to screen the show here until one year after its premiere on the Nine Network.

Among the productions it will have for Oz are the big-budget period drama Marco Polo, which will premiere on December 12 in the 50 territories in which Netflix operates, and Chelsea Handler's new late-night talk show.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Green Legend, which is due to premiere on Netflix and at IMAX theatres next August, has angered all the major US exhibitors which say they will refuse to book the sequel to Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

The first of four films in a deal with Adam Sandler is expected to be delivered in late 2015 or early 2016.

At Mipcom Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos described Australia and New Zealand as “very attractive territories that are English speaking and love US content."

Netflix initiated discussions for Australian/NZ rights to movies and series with the Hollywood studios during the Los Angeles Screenings in May, and there were further negotiations at Mipcom with the studios, independents and ABC Commercial.

The monthly fee is likely to be $10 or below, the same price that StreamCo,  the JV between Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media, will charge.

There’s no launch date yet for StreamCo which reportedly is assembling a library of 10,000 hours of content, sourced from the US majors and independents. Launching pre-Christmas would mean the service could capitalise on the peak viewing period for pay TV and the “clear air” before Netflix’s arrival. The timing hinges on when executives believe the technology ensures a totally glitch-free experience for users.

Foxtel halved the monthly fee of its movies streaming service Presto to $9.99 in August to try to boost subscribers (fewer than 1,500 had signed up in the first few months, IF understands) and as a pre-emptive move against Netflix.

“We’ve seen good growth since the price drop and adding devices such as Chromecast,” a Foxtel spokesman told IF.