Hit: Kevin Spacey in House of Cards.
For the past year, headlines have been declaring: "Netflix is coming."
In truth, however, the applecart-upsetting online TV streaming business Netflix is already here.
Unofficial estimates put Australian subscriptions to the US service at between 150,000 and 200,000, which translates into $2 million per month in revenue. And that's without opening a shopfront, hiring employees or buying a single hour of content in the Australian TV market. As business models go, it's breathtaking.
Netflix has about 40.4 million subscribers globally.
"There is huge demand for Netflix," says Ten's chief digital officer Rebekah Horne. Like Foxtel, which has launched FoxtelPlay, and its rivals Seven and Nine, Ten will move into the streaming space "sooner rather than later", Horne says.
Netflix was created in 1997 as a DVD mail-order business in the US, but expanded into digital streaming of movies and TV shows. It now has about 40.4 million subscribers globally, about 33 million of whom are in the US. It is expanding its European businesses, one factor in the delay of the Australian launch.
It offers a mix of feature films and television series on demand, much like its principal US competitors, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play and Crackle.
Netflix has had huge success with its original series Orange is the New Black.
Significantly, it has pushed into original content, airing House of Cards, a fourth season of Arrested Development and Orange is the New Black. It has become a byword for the consumer-is-king content revolution.
While much of the buzz about Netflix is built on the grass-is-greener perception that it offers US consumers something Australians are being denied, in truth it is not a $10-a-month miracle pill that will solve everyone's programming and piracy woes.
Like most of its peers, it is an online library of content, only a segment of which is first-run or exclusive.
In marketing terms, however, the truth is almost beside the point; for evidence look no further than the queues that greeted the launch of other attractive international brands such as Zara and H&M in Australia.
But a change of play is coming. Netflix will set up an Australian business, most likely next year.
For Netflix, the Australian market is ripe for the picking.
Innovation has been stifled for a long time, creating a dangerously wide disconnect between consumers and traditional players, such as free-to-air broadcasters. And content, once locked up in studio output deals, is gradually flowing back onto the market as networks either abandon output deals, or partially dismantle them.
The net effect is this: Seven and Nine have deals in place that effectively keep the ABC Studios (Disney) and Warner Bros libraries, respectively, in their hands. Two other deals, Sony and NBC Universal, were left to lapse by Nine and Seven respectively, and are on the market.
Ten's deal with CBS Studios was recently carved open, pushing a large slab of CBS content onto the open market, while Ten's other deal – a 20th Century Fox output deal it shares with Foxtel – is still in place, but some shows, unsuitable to Ten, are being offered elsewhere.
For the already established players on the Australian landscape, there can be no doubt Netflix represents a serious threat. Free-to-air television audiences will continue to erode as a finite number of eyeballs is divided between an ever more infinite amount of content.
And the ABC and Foxtel, the two most innovative players on the Australian landscape, risk having their digital businesses hit a plateau as consumers take up an attractive new player, with the added sex appeal of a premium US brand.
Foxtel's Bruce Meagher is unperturbed. The arrival of Netflix, he says, "will raise awareness and hopefully grow the market for everyone, and we intend to be a very active participant. We expect to claim a reasonable share of that as it grows".
When Netflix launches in Australia, it will join a market where a handful of players are already jostling for space. In addition to Foxtel Play there are EzyFlix, Fetch TV, Quickflix, BigPond Movies, Playstation Network and XBox Live.
To that we can add the ABC's iView and streaming businesses from Seven and Nine (via StreamCo) and Ten. Foxtel's subscription TV service will also significantly ramp up its on-demand content.
The CEO of StreamCo Mike Sneesby anticipates rapid growth in the sector. "We are launching the service with the expectation that competition will increase in this space," he says.
Significantly, he says StreamCo's offering will be positioned "at a price point comparable to international platforms." Netflix and Hulu Plus are priced at about $US10 per month. That will be seen as a major price pressure for more expensive services, such as Foxtel's cable offering.
There are still some hurdles, however. While Australia's internet is carrying its present load without too many issues, the arrival of Netflix may pose challenges. Netflix accounts for 34 per cent of all internet traffic in the US.
Australian capped internet "plans" are also an issue; in the US, internet plans are uncapped as an industry standard, allowing consumers unlimited data downloads.
Meagher says the network is, to date, coping with the volume of traffic.
''The NBN [national broadband network] in whatever form will help enormously and, at the other end, compression technology is constantly improving,'' he says. ''Even if the pipe's not so big, the ability to put more stuff through it is improving.''