Friday, August 23, 2013

Sit back, enjoy the show, anywhere, any time

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards.

Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in House of Cards.

Competition in Australia's emerging television-on-the-internet sector is expected to heat up with the launch of a raft of on-demand services that will allow audiences to access blue-chip film and TV content via the web.

The web-based portal EzyFlix, which launched this week, allows consumers to purchase movies and TV programs online and to play them on smart TVs, tablets, smartphones and personal computers.

It follows the launch of an internet-based Foxtel service, Foxtel Play, which delivers the pay TV network's content, including some channels, catch-up TV and movies, via broadband at a lower price point than cable and without a contract.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad.

''Australians are hungry for new-release movies and US TV shows and tired of feeling like they're behind the rest of the world,'' EzyFlix chief executive Craig White said.


IPTV - or internet protocol television - is essentially TV-like services delivered by broadband. In the US, a number of players such as Netflix, Hulu and iTunes have paved the way for dozens more, including Amazon, Google Play and Crackle.

Most are offering on-demand access to new and classic Hollywood films as well as library and top-tier cable dramas, such as Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Homeland and Game of Thrones.

Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter
as Dexter and Deb Morgan
in <i>Dexter</i>.

Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Carpenter as Dexter and Deb Morgan in Dexter.

Others, such as Netflix, have commissioned original content, such as House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black.

The result has been a television revolution of sorts, driving a segment of the viewing audience to ''cut the cord'' - that is, sever access to traditional TV and pay TV. When the national broadband network launches in the next few years IPTV is expected to accelerate dramatically.

Both Netflix and Hulu have signalled interest in launching here but not acted on it. In addition to EzyFlix and Foxtel Play there are a number of other local players including Fetch TV, Quickflix, BigPond Movies, Playstation Network and XBox Live.

Industry analyst Steve Allen, from Fusion Strategy, believes a lack of sport content and the relatively small size of the Australian market will soften the expansion of IPTV.

''The big problem is 23 million people and how do you afford quality content that's home-grown,'' Allen said.

Australian audiences are also sceptical of buying subscriptions to TV services given they have historically been well served by free-to-air television, Mr White said. ''Foxtel has done an awesome job but hasn't broken the 30 per cent barrier, so Australians are not used to paying subscriptions for these services.''

Mr White described EzyFlix as an alternative to iTunes.

''Consumers genuinely want to own the movies and TV shows they love and at the moment they are only served meaningfully by iTunes but you are locked into the Apple device ecosystem.''
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