There’s more to Netflix than House of Cards: A closer look at the Netflix’s Australian launch

There's more to Netflix than House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, the two apparent holes in the internet streaming service's Australian launch line-up according to Cliff Edwards, Netflix's Director of Corporate Communications and Technology.

There's more to Netflix than House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, the two apparent holes in the internet streaming service's Australian launch line-up according to Cliff Edwards, Netflix's Director of Corporate Communications and Technology.

"We think we have a lot of great original content coming," said Edwards. "Our chief content officer said that we're going to be launching a new original every two-and-a-half weeks next year. That's a lot of great content, and there'll be a lot of breakout shows. So to talk about two shows that have been on the service for a while, and actually have done very well for us, you sort of downplay everything else that comes along." 

Netflix recently announced that it will launch the popular video streaming service to Australia and New Zealand in March 2015, bringing a massive line-up of original content with it. CyberShack had the chance to sit down with Edwards, Betty Sund, Netflix's Senior Manager of Consumer Publication Relations and Lindsay Colker, Netflix's Senior Manager of Original Series Publicity (henceforth referred to as the Netflix team) to chat about the impending launch.

In addition to Netflix's own original series, including Marco Polo and BoJack Horsemen, the Australian offering will also have a mix of Hollywood and local content. 

"When we come into a market we look for all the content that's applicable to the local subscriber," said the Netflix team. "We've done our homework, we've gone into Australian and Kiwi homes and have been talking to all sorts of potential partners on the content front, the ISP front, and across the board to make sure that we're ready and can really nail it."

But the process of actually licensing that content can be quite challenging, varying from country to country and medium to medium. Described by the team as archaic, the way in which Netflix currently licenses content for service often involves respecting distribution windows that state a movie or programme can't be made available for online streaming for a certain duration of time after its theatrical release or original broadcast – a period that can be different in each country Netflix operates in.

"The idea that a country may have fewer people and so therefore I'm not going to prioritise giving [content] to them is very old school,"  said the Netflix team. "As we work to be a global internet television company, we think that everyone should get content at the same time, everywhere."  

"What we're working to do and what we've been doing on the original side is trying to shorten these windows because we think it's pretty crappy that you guys have had to wait to get content. What we're trying to do is democratise content by making it available all at once, all over the globe."

This attitude to content distribution, coupled with premium original content, is part of what the team hopes will help differentiate Netflix from competitors such as Presto Entertainment and Stan.

"Netflix is really the best of Silicon Valley married to the very best of Hollywood," said the team.

While Netflix was almost uncontested when in launched in the United States in 2007, Stan and Presto Entertainment are expected to be opening shop at a very similar time next year. The Netflix team, however, thinks this eight years of experience will give them the upper-hand when it comes to Australia. 

"On the engineering side we've spent USD$400 million [per year]. We're investing a lot to make sure that when you click and watch, wherever, however, whenever, we're working," said the Netflix team.  "A lot of people don't have the money or the manpower to invest in the technology we offer."

At the same time, the team doesn't see Netflix as the be-all-and-end-all.

"We are not a one stop shop, we know that what our service is a curated library of content that appeals to the subscribers in Australia in New Zealand," said the Netflix team.

"At the end of the day, it's unfortunate that it's taken this long [for everyone in Australia] to be able to access content at the same time, but now you're going to have an embarrassment of riches that you have all these different services that are going to be offered now. It's going to be a matter of what's the right choice for me? Maybe they're all the right choice for you."

"It's not like we're talking bank-busting money here, for the first month our service is free to use."

As with elsewhere in the world, Netflix will have three pricing tiers – standard definition, high definition and 4K – and pricing will be comparable to their current international plans.

While a number of Australians are already accessing Netflix through VPN, the team think this number will decrease when the service becomes officially available locally.

"We believe that the vast majority of Australians who are on broadband are not using VPNs and are not pirating stuff; those are the people who you want to target," said the Netflix team. 

"You also find that the people who are VPNing, whatever that number may be, are missing out. With a VPN you're basically locked into watching Netflix in your home, whereas a growing number of our base is mobile devices. If you want to be able to watch Netflix anywhere, anytime any place, you're missing a big chunk of the experience."

The Netflix team confirmed that Australian Netflix users will be able to travel with their accounts, espousing the service's global nature as one of its unique benefits. "If you go to a different country, you can login into Netflix and get the local content," said the team. "Being global is a massive competitive advantage."

This will also allow Australian users to watch content exclusive to the American Netflix or the British Netflix through the use of a VPN.

While Netflix wasn't able to comment on House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, they didn't rule out a local launch for either series. "Between January and March we'll have a steady cadence of content announcements," said the team.

And after all, they're also dying to know about what's next for Frank Underwood.

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