Will Aussies pay six bucks a month to keep up with the Kardashians in a crowded subscription video market?
As the new-look National Broadband Network gradually brings faster internet to Australian lounge rooms we're starting to look more attractive to foreign streaming video services. We're still a nation of pirates and geo-dodgers but the rush to embrace Australian Netflix shows we also have an appetite for legit streaming services.
Ask people which foreign services they'd like to see come to Australia and they're likely to ask for Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, HBO Now or BBC's iPlayer. Of course it's not hard to sneak into all these services, whatever technological countermeasures they put in place, but they're dragging their feet when it comes to officially launching in Australia – Global iPlayer was on the iPad for a while but the Beeb killed it off last year.
For now you'll have to be satisfied with NBCUniversal's new Hayu, which is coming to Australia, the UK and Ireland in March.
Don't expect full access to NBCUniversal's television back catalogue, instead for $5.99 per month we'll get access to 3,000 episodes of reality TV including Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Real Housewives of New York, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Shahs of Sunset, I Am Cait, Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles, The Millionaire Matchmaker and Made In Chelsea.
Tastes vary, but you'd have to take your reality TV pretty seriously if you're prepared to spend six bucks a month on this rubbish rather than putting the money towards a more rounded streaming service like Netflix, Presto, Stan (co-owned by Fairfax Media), Quickflix, FetchTV or Foxtel Play.
Unfortunately Hayu is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fragmented streaming services. NBCUniversal offers the Seeso subscription comedy service in the US for US$3.99 per month and is reportedly working on nine specialist streaming services. If this model works in the US then it's likely to come to Australia.
Thankfully Hayu doesn't have exclusive rights to its content, so you can pick up those shows elsewhere, but it's part of a disturbing trend which is moving us further away from the dream of one streaming service to rule them all.
Exclusive content deals already make it necessary for Australians to subscribe to Netflix, Presto, Stan and some form of Foxtel if you want to watch all the latest shows. Of course in reality, people are likely to just pay for one service and turn to the BitTorrent channel to pick up a few shows from the others (Australia's laughable piracy crackdown won't stop this).
If you do play by the rules and pay for everything, subscription video is starting to look like the expensive pay TV bundle/package model that Netflix set out to smash. Technically Netflix is still a bundle, you're still paying for rubbish you don't want in order to see your favourite shows, but it feels like better value for money than a full pay TV service. It's not so attractive once you have to subscribe to multiple services to watch all your favourite shows.
We're drawing closer to the death of "the contract", but it's looking like the idea of "the package" will live on in the internet video age thanks to the fragmentation of streaming video services. In some ways Netflix is to blame, as it grew so powerful that more and more content providers started withholding their programming in order to launch their own services.
What will you do when your favourite shows are split across a dozen subscription video services? Does pay TV start to look more attractive or do you just sail back to The Pirate Bay?