Amazon Prime Video still doesn’t care about Australia much

Angus Kidman 4 December 2017 NEWS

CateBlanchett738

An anaemic new selection of Sundance highlights proves the point.

Last week, Amazon announced that its Amazon Prime Video streaming service would highlight the official selections from the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. On (digital) paper, this sounds like a good idea: offering a distribution model for independent films which might otherwise struggle to get a worldwide release. "We launched the Film Festival Stars Program at Sundance earlier this year because we heard from our customers they love watching independent films," Eric Orme, head of Amazon Video Direct, said in announcing the scheme.

However, there's a catch. Of the 15 films Amazon is highlighting, every single one is available in the US. Only 11 of the 15 are available in Canada, and for the rest of the world it's very slim pickings indeed. Just two titles, Plastic China and 500 Years, will be available worldwide, and hence in Australia. No chance of seeing Manifesto with Australian acting legend Cate Blanchett then.

Title US Canada Worldwide
500 Years Yes Yes Yes
Axolotl Overkill Yes Yes No
Don't Swallow My Heart, Alligator Girl! Yes Yes No
Family Life Yes No No
Free And Easy Yes Yes No
Machines Yes Yes No
Manifesto Yes Yes No
Marjorie Prime Yes No No
Motherland Yes Yes No
Plastic China Yes Yes Yes
Pop Aye Yes Yes No
RUMBLE: The Indians Who Rocked The World Yes No No
Sueno En Ontro Idoma (I Dream In Another Language) Yes Yes No
The Good Postman Yes Yes No
World Without End (No Reported Incidents) Yes No No

I can't pretend to be surprised. Since Amazon Prime Video launched back in December 2016 in Australia, the available range of programming has been very slim. It's understandable that in many cases Netflix, Foxtel and Stan have already scooped up the local rights, but even some of Amazon Prime's original productions have been delayed down under. For instance, The Man In The High Castle showed up two months late in Australia.

We're also poorly supported with technology. There's no clear indication when the recently announced Fire TV Stick Basic might appear locally.

Amazon has its own Orwellian twists on this approach. For anthology series Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams, which it is rolling out in the US in January, it says the show will be "available globally in selected territories". That's not what globally means, people. Of course, Australia isn't on that list, because Electric Dreams is co-funded by Stan, which has the local rights.

As I've noted recently, the assumption that when Amazon arrives, it brings everything is a faulty one. Amazon is a global operator, but it adjusts its approach based on where it can score rights and what it thinks will sell.

While we wait to see what products Amazon Australia rolls out next, it's worth bearing this in mind. All Amazon countries are not created equal.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears regularly on finder.com.au.

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