US tech giant Netflix is establishing an on-the-ground presence in Sydney and has started hiring local staff as it fights to maintain its dominant position in the Australian streaming video market.
The $US175 billion ($A224 billion) valued global behemoth is in the process of setting up a "small Sydney office" for the first time, media sources said, in a move that could signal the business has plans to back more original Australian content.
Netflix, the clear market leader in streaming video, has resisted opening a formal office in Australia and has not had any local employees since it launched in this country in 2016.
The new presence marks the first time Netflix will have permanent local staff, with former LinkedIn director of public policy for Asia Pacific and Japan Nick O'Donnell hired as its local director of public policy.
Former Twentieth Century Fox head of publicty Sarah Haines has taken on a new role as head of Netflix's Australia and New Zealand publicity for originals.
A local team of as many as 10 people will initially be based out of a Sydney co-working space, sources said, which is believed to be WeWork, which has offices across the CBD, Pyrmont, Barangaroo and North Sydney.
Netflix has 18 office locations around the world, including six in Asia Pacific, and is registered locally with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission using the address of its Netherlands, Amsterdam headquarters.
Representatives for the company did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Netflix expanded into Australia in March 2016, two months after Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment Co launched rival platform Stan. (Nine is also the owner of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age).
The move to secure a stronger presence in Australia comes as several US studios plan global launches for direct-to-consumer streaming video platforms in coming months, including entertainment giant The Walt Disney Company with Disney+.
The surge of competitors will put extra pressure on existing platforms to make themselves stand out from their competition with content.
Netflix has amassed millions of local subscribers over the past few years with Roy Morgan estimating about 11 million Australians have access to the service, though there are no official local figures released. Rival Stan has about 1.6 million subscribers.
Offshore founded digital businesses like social media platforms and streaming services have faced increased criticism for not paying their fair share of tax in Australia.
Digital giants also face pressure from Australian screen industry and production groups that have pushed for regulators to impose quotas on video streaming platforms requiring them to ensure a minimum amounts of local content is created, similar to those placed on free-to-air television broadcasters.
The Netflix Australia library includes 1.6 per cent local content compared to 11.1 per cent of Stan, RMIT research from 2018 shows. This figure is affected by the overall size of the content catalogue.
There are, however, signs that Netflix is increasingly valuing Australian content. Netflix launched its first Australian original Tidelands in December 2018 and has since backed Chris Lilley's 10-part mockumentary series Lunatics.
Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby's Nanette was also released to a global audience as a Netflix special and was widely watched with a second special called Douglas to be released on the platform in 2020.
Stan chief executive Mike Sneesby has publicly claimed the Australian platform's original series Bloom, which launched over the summer holiday period coinciding with the introduction of Disney content on the platform, was responsible for the biggest uptick in subscribers.
Another major local production, eight-part drama series The Gloaming, is due on Stan this year with another show and record spend currently in the works.
Netflix told German media title DWDL in May that it would open an office in Berlin later this year with hopes of working closely with the local content industry, with staff including program managers to handle originals, co-productions and licensing. Netflix is about to launch its third German original.
- SMH/The Age