Netflix confirms NZ launch

Perversely, a Netflix local launch could actually help Quickflix, Spark's Lightbox and Sky TV's Neon — and not for the reason you might think.

UPDATE: Nov 19: It seems Netflix long-rumoured NZ launch has finally been confirmed by a press release posted to the company's website this morning (see RAW DATA below).

The US streaming giant (market cap: $US23 billion) will set up shop here in March.

The move follows social (We Are Social) and ad (Drogba5) agencies being appointed across the Tasman, according to a November 4 report plus a comment by a Netflix exec that Australia and New Zealand are "very attractive territories" in that they are English speaking and "love US content".

Despite racing to nearly 50 million users worldwide, around 40 million of them in its home market, the $US4 billion (turnover) Netflix has so far had only a muted affect on traditional pay TV subscriptions in North America. Analysts put that down to the low-cost video streaming service's emphasis on back-catalogue content (its couple of original series notwithstanding), meaning many people use it as a complement rather than replacement for their pay TV provider.

But it could blunt the appeal of Sky TV's pending Netflix-style service Neon, Spark's recently launched Lightbox — which has the ambitious target of 70,000 subscribers by June next year — and the more established Quickflix, which operates on both sides of the Tasman.

All three have made some savvy defensive moves recently Sky TV renewing a long-term exclusive deal with HBO that includes online rights, and maintained its grip on rugby with a new Sanzar deal. Lightbox recently added local shows, and Quickflix expanded its local line-up. 

"Could" is the operative word here.

The most intriguing issue remains whether Netflix would block its US service to help foster an NZ version, which will likely have slimmer content due to Sky TV's lock on online rights to key content.

The fan boys reckon they can easily get around any geoblocking, and I'm sure most of them can. But bear in mind that when Netflix changed its settings in May (a move aimed at stopping US subscribers sharing accounts, rather than offshore subs), thousands of New Zealanders were up in arms. It wasn't until ISPs stepped in with caching fixes (something they're not likely to do if Netflix goes on the front-foot about geoblocking) that normal service was restored for most.

If Netflix does make its Goldilocks US service harder to access after an NZ launch then, perversely, the arrival of the US giant could be a big plus for Lightbox, Neon and Quickflix.

Some have pointed out that Netflix hasn't geoblocked as it's moved into Europe and other territories, but then again Sky TV has an unusually strong lock on broadcast and streaming rights to key content.

At any rate, it looks like we'll soon find out one way or another. 

According Nielsen MediaView website ratings, 25,000 New Zealanders visited Netflix.com during September 2014.

Sky says it will launch the $20-a-month Neon TV in December. Like Netflix in the US, and local contenders Lightbox ($15/month) and Quickflix ($12.99), it will let subscribers download all the shows they want for a fixed monthly fee. Neon content will be delivered over an internet connection to an iPad or computer, with options to watch it on a regular TV via wi-fi gadgets or HDMI cable.

ckeall@nbr.co.nz

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RAW DATA: Netflix press release

NETFLIX TO LAUNCH IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND IN MARCH 2015
World’s Leading Internet Television Network to Offer Original Series, Movies, Documentaries, Stand-Up Comedy Specials and TV Shows for Low Monthly Price
Nov 18, 2014
LOS GATOS, Calif. Nov. 18 – Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX), the leading Internet movie and TV subscription service, is heading down under, announcing today it will expand into Australia and New Zealand in March 2015.

Internet-connected users in Australia and New Zealand will be able to subscribe to Netflix and instantly watch a curated selection of popular movies and TV shows in high-definition or even 4K where available. At launch, the premium and unique Netflix offering will include such original series as Marco Polo, BoJack Horseman and, among many kids titles, DreamWorks Animation’s All Hail King Julien.

Netflix, available on hundreds of Internet-connected devices, will also be home to the critically acclaimed documentaries Virunga and Mission Blue, and stand-up comedy specials Uganda Be Kidding Me, Live, from Chelsea Handler and Jim Jefferies’s BARE, among many others. The Netflix ANZ selection will expand in 2015 to include highly anticipated original series family thriller Bloodline starring Ben Mendelsohn, Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini and Sam Shepard; the gripping Super Hero tale Marvel’s Daredevil featuring Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson and Vincent D’Onofrio; Sense8, a new globe-spanning thriller series from the creators of The Matrix trilogy and Babylon 5, and, from the creator of Friends, Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.

Since launching its online service in 2007, Netflix has been connecting people to the stories they love. With a constantly improving user experience, advanced personalisation technology and a curated selection of films and TV shows, members are able to create their own viewing experience and can easily discover new favourites, while reconnecting with popular characters and stories.

Netflix members with a broadband connection can watch whenever, wherever they like, and on any Netflix-ready device they choose. Members can start watching on one device, pause, and then pick up where they left off on another, at home or on the go. It’s easy to sign up for a one-month free trial and cancel anytime.

Netflix will be available at launch on smart TVs, tablets and smartphones, computers and a range of Internet-capable game consoles and set-top boxes. Additional details on pricing, programming and supported devices will be available at a later date. Consumers can sign up to be alerted when Netflix is available on www.netflix.com.

About Netflix
With more than 53 million members, Netflix Inc. (NASDAQ: NFLX) is the world’s leading Internet TV network. Its three-tiered pricing plans offer a range of streaming-quality options, including standard definition video, high-definition and 4K ultra-HD, to one or more screens at a time. New Zealand and Australia would bring the number of countries and territories enjoying Netflix service to more than 50. Netflix is available to members in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, the U.K. and Ireland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

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