Can Netflix end piracy? No, but it will put a serious dent in the practice.
The launch of Netflix in Australia isn’t the end-all be all of streaming media, but it does establish a beachhead for streaming video services in the Australian market. It’s a strong, viable player that sets the yardstick on what consumers expect from streaming video services. Other media companies are set to compete against the US streamer, which presents a significant shift in the way we consume video in Australia. Netflix represents the shift towards legitimising the television we download, evolving our consumption away from the pirate behaviour we’ve exhibited.
First, let it be said, piracy will never go away completely. For younger people (teens and those in their twenties), even a $10 SVOD subscription service is outside of their budgets, so piracy will remain a crucial source of access for content. There are movies and TV shows that simply won’t get a local release which can only be seen via piratical means. Regardless of what one subscribes to, there will always be *that one show* that exists outside of your subscription access that one wants. And then there’s piracy for honourable needs – the acquisition of lost/forgotten TV shows and movies that offer distributors no financial incentive to make available on new platforms.
Screen Australia recently released their Online and On Demand: Trends in Australian online video use report. This is their first report into Australian video on demand viewing habits and is based off focus groups run by Nielsen. The report tells us little we didn’t already assume, but it does give offer a quantifiable report to support assumptions we’ve held for some time. Key findings in the report are:
- Online viewing is not restricted to specific demographics, rather online viewing is consumed by 50% of all Internet connected Australians.
- Australians are drawn to convenience, free content, and new viewing options.
- Australians are highly demanding, wanting their content immediately, inexpensive/free, and they want it all.
- Most consumption is via legitimate services, with some of us using both legitimate and illegitimate platforms together.
- More content is being watched alone than has been historically the case.
- While online viewing is growing, it still represents a small part of our ‘screen diet’. More time is spent watching broadcast TV, going to the cinema, watching DVD’s, etc.
- Bandwidth cost, and a lack of technical know-how is holding back many Australians.
Australian ISP iiNet have been vocal supporters of services like Netflix launching in Australia. Throughout their High Court case against AFACT, iiNet established themselves as an advocate for the rights of Australian Internet users and repeatedly expressed the view that piracy in Australia is caused by a lack of access to content in a timely and appropriately priced manner.
In speaking with Televised Revolution, an iiNet spokesperson has said that iiNet is very supportive of both the Netflix and Stan announcements, going on to say“Our customers have repeatedly expressed the view that they are more than willing to pay for content if it is available in a timely manner and at a reasonable price”.
While iiNet stressed to Televised Revolution that they don’t know how many of their customers access Netflix as they don’t monitor customers activities online, iiNet have expressed support for the launch of a local Netflix service as it will reduce international traffic volume, which is great for Australian ISP’s.
Where Netflix and other similar SVOD streamers will make an impact is with casual viewing. In any given TV viewing week, most viewers will have a small number of shows they are passionate about and eager to watch every week, combined with other shows that they just simply like or are shows watched out of habit. There’s also shows that one watches casually just to pass the time. Over the past 15 years in Australia, online savvy TV consumers have been developing torrent-related habits outside of broadcast TV schedules. It always begins with the desire to watch a specific show, but grows into being the source of their TV content for their core and casual viewing. The sheer ease and convenience of turning on the TV and streaming a show that is presented to you on screen immediately (with it in your own watchlist or is recommended by the service based on your other viewing habits) shifts behaviour. The desire to source your casual and less important viewing from torrents is lessened by a process that takes fewer steps.
Netflix will not end piracy. But it does significantly lessen the need for it. With the launch of Netflix, Stan, the mooted revamp of Presto, and existing services like YouTube, Australia will finally have a number of high profile, well-resourced streaming services that can have a serious impact on how we watch online video. The way we watch TV is about to become a whole lot more legit.