Netflix, television disrupter?

I have just been charged my first monthly fee for Netflix Australia which means that I have finished my free month. One month in and I am pretty happy with Netflix—with one important exception. Netflix Australia has a small collection of movies available, and the inclusions and omissions are surprising. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure is there, but not Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, for instance.

The real strength of the service for me (much less so for other family members) has been Netflix’s own content. In my last post I discussed a report that Apple was looking to produce its own content for a rumoured subscription service. Around the same time that this report came out, it was also announced that Netflix would not be renewing its deal with Epix. Which means a lot less movies. This news was offset by some announcements of Netflix-produced movies, a continuing relationship with Sony Pictures, and an improvement in delivering Disney/Pixar films.

All of this points to the idea that if you are going to offer a subscription service then you need to offer exclusive content, and the most reliable way to do that is to produce your own. However, as I understand it, what made Netflix great was that it didn’t have exclusive content—it had content from everywhere. The other early novelty was that it was internet based, which meant VOD essentially.

So while I love the Netflix-produced content that I have watched, I still wish that they had a better selection of movies. So I am happy to keep paying for Netflix, but I still want more.

And this brings me to my point. If Apple go down the same path as Netflix with exclusive content (and even if they don’t, someone else will) then what we are going to end up with is with a proliferation of services each attempting to differentiate themselves from the others via exclusive content. You know, just like networks do today.

Sure, we’ve gained ad-free VOD—in the short term. Once “traditional television” dies, advertisers are going to be left with a whole heap of cash to spend somewhere. And before long, our subscription-based streaming services are going to be increasing their revenue by showing ads.

So, in this dystopian television future, we will all be paying subscription fees to numerous providers who then ply us with ads for crap we neither want nor need.

Which is pretty much the situation that we were trying to get away from.

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