New Zealand Netflix hopes dashed

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Expectations are growing that Netflix will arrive in New Zealand next year, adding to the growing number of options people have to watch television entertainment and films over the internet.

After months of rumours and speculation, the United States internet television giant appeared to publicly confirm for the first time that it was interested in providing its service in New Zealand.

Speaking at a conference in Cannes, France, chief content officer Ted Sarandos described Australia and New Zealand as “very attractive territories” for Netflix, which has so far signed up more than 50 million customers in more than 40 countries.

However, Netflix spokesman Joris Evers has subsequently told Fairfax that Sarandos’ comments did not confirm Netflix’ interest in launching in New Zealand or Australia and it had only said it wanted “to be global one day”.

Sarandos did not reveal what programming a Kiwi version of Netflix might offer or at what cost.  However, the going rate for internet television services is typically around $12 to $15 a month.

Netflix would have to fight for local programming rights against Spark, which launched internet television service Lightbox in August, Australian-based online television and movie pioneers Quickflix and Ezyflix, and with Sky Television.

Sky has said it will launch an internet television service, which will be separate to its broadcast pay-TV service, by the end of the year.

Netflix might also have its work cut out wooing some viewers away from its own US offering, which a growing number of internet users have been watching in breach of its terms and conditions. Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are believed to have bypassed internet blocks to sign up to Netflix’ US service, which costs US$8.99 a month but which it is not supposed to be available here.

United States studio HBO, which provides much of the content for Sky’s premium SoHo entertainment channel, has meanwhile announced plans to launch its own internet television service in the US. It will go over the head of traditional television companies and sign up viewers direct.

The developments appear a double whammy for Sky Television as it attempts to maintain its strong grip on New Zealand’s pay-television market.

However, there is unknown risk that Kiwi viewers could use the same “anti-geo-blocking services” that many are using to access Netflix today to also sign up to HBO’s US service. Those anti-blocking services include GlobalMode, which is offered as a free service by internet providers Slingshot and Orcon.

Sky TV spokeswoman Kirsty Way said it had been assured by HBO that its US service would be blocked to New Zealanders, but did not have further details.

HBO’s internet television service will launch some time next year at a price that has yet to be announced.

Netflix shares took a big hit in the wake of disappointing subscriber growth and confirmation it will have a new direct competitor in the shape of HBO.

Its stock plunged 26 per cent in after-hours trading on the US’ Nasdaq exchange.

The company blamed a US$1 hike in its monthly subscription fee for discouraging new sign-ups.

It lured 3.02 million new streaming customers globally, versus the 3.69 million it projected in July.


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