The streaming war begins

In January 2015 the Australian television landscape changed dramatically when streaming video on demand services (SVOD) finally became available to Australian viewers.

It’s certainly a service consumers were hungry for. Australians are some of the most prolific pirates of television and movie content, with many blaming the delay in airing of international shows and cost of pay-TV.

In 2014, American streaming giant Netflix announced they would launch an Australian service in 2015. It’s estimated there were already around 200,000 Australian’s accessing the American service, using VPNs (virtual private networks) to evade the geo-blocks.

In response, unlikely alliances formed in the Australian media. Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media teamed up to create Stan, and Foxtel and Seven West Media joined forces to revamp and launch Presto.

As consumers waited with bated breath, speculation began around the impact of the new entrants on free-to-air viewer and Foxtel subscriber numbers, as well as the impact on existing smaller streaming services Quickflix and EzyFlix.

The overhauled Presto was quietly launched first, now offering consumers TV shows in addition to movies (Presto was originally launched by Foxtel in 2014, providing a movie streaming service).

Stan entered the market next, launching on Australia Day 2015. By mid-February Stan was well on its way to reaching 100,000 subscribers.

Netflix officially launched in March and the so-called streaming war officially began.

By the end of June 2015 – less than six months after the war began – there were around two million SVOD subscribers in Australia!

So who’s winning the war?

According to research undertaken by Roy Morgan in May, Netflix has taken the early lead with 1.039 million subscribers, well ahead of Presto with 97,000, Stan with 91,000 and Quickflix with 43,000 subscribers. However, Stan contested these figures, announcing it had 200,000 subscribers, including those still on free trials.

By April, free-to-air channels were seeing ratings drops of more than six per cent (between 6.00 pm and midnight); however, overall viewing (over a 24-hour period) was only down 2.9 per cent.

Interestingly, catch up services – such as iView, Plus7 and TenPlay – are continuing to be more popular than the local streaming services, Stan and Presto.

Foxtel continues to have more than five million subscribers, and a drop in pricing has seen subscriptions grow.

Ezyflix has been the first casualty in the streaming war, shutting down its site in August 2015.

While it’s too early to call a winner, one thing is certain – Australian TV has been changed forever.