Frost Global has long highlighted the need for an Australian Hulu and Netflix, but to date there has been no firm commitment from either company about commencing Australian operations. This has left Australian consumers with silo catch-up services, that is catch-up content only accessible through each free-to-air network’s online catch-up services (save for services such as Quickflix which only have limited TV content). This may all be about to change.
Recent reports in the Australian Financial Review and the Australian suggest talks have taken place between Seven, Nine and possibly Ten for a joint catch-up/on-demand service. Think a Freeview catch-up service. By launching such a service the commercial free-to-air networks would be hoping to corner the market with a first mover advantage, protecting themselves from a potential loss of market share should Netflix or Hulu launch in Australia in the near future. There has also been a suggestion that Foxtel would play a part in such a service.
Further, the ABC has said it may have to review its iView strategy because the number of views per month is making the service cost prohibitive for the government-fund broadcaster.
The threat of US giants launching their services in Australia, an underfunded ABC and the recent success in the US of made-for-online only content (e.g. House of Cards and Arrested Development) suggests that a perfect storm is upon us to drive FTA and subscription rivals to become collaborators to protect and grow digital revenue from digital programming rights they each currently hold.
We have seen the strength of Freeview in growing digital TV penetration ahead of the analog switch-off and the subsequent growth in digital-only channels audience numbers. There is no reason why a collaborative ‘Freeview catch-up service’ cannot achieve the same success for FTA networks online.
If the collaboration does proceed utilising Foxtel’s or ABC iView’s existing technology platforms this will minimise capital costs and deliver a world class product available to all consumers across multiple platforms.
It is time that Australian consumers have an Australian Netflix or Hulu.
Hopefully such a service is just around the corner.