Can any streaming service beat Netflix?

Angus Kidman 1 February 2018 NEWS

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It might seem impossible, but stranger things have happened (ahem).

New data confirms that Netflix is indeed the Goliath to every other streaming service's David. Netflix has been viewed by 69% of Australians, according to a Stable Research study reported by TV Tonight.

The runners-up slots go to ABC iView and SBS On Demand, which means that Stan, Foxtel Now, hayu, Amazon Prime Video and the commercial networks have a lot of work to do.

One reason those services don't necessarily need to panic, though: at the $10-$15 price range that applies, we're happy to try out more than one service. The same study found the average Australian has used 4.3 streaming services.

The topic of how competition in streaming will change was much discussed at a media event hosted by broadcast services provider Ooyala which I attended yesterday. As Ooyala's APJ vice president Steve Davis noted, one advantage that Netflix and other purely streaming providers have over existing broadcast networks like Seven, Nine and Ten is that they don't have to divide their attention between TV assets and streaming services.

"Broadcasters have legacy problems, both technological and political," Davis said. "They have to fight a lot of battles that aren't an issue for newer companies."

Given Netflix's dominance (and its US$8 billion content budget), one likely way that other streaming services can succeed is by specialising in particular types of content. Davis pointed to the example of Dendy Direct, which offers arthouse cinema titles you won't find on Netflix or Stan. A similar strategy is being followed by hayu, with its reality menu dominated by infinite variations from the Real Housewives franchise.

The other area where streamers haven't made much impact is in sports, which remain the preserve of free-to-air and pay TV. In the US, Amazon has paid for limited streaming rights to some NFL matches; locally, we've seen Twitter leap on the Melbourne Cup. But it's hard to see how services that rely purely on subscription fees under $20 a month are going to start bidding a billion dollars a year or more for the most popular sports.

Netflix's status as #1 seems unlikely to shift in the near term. However, it's clear that this probably isn't ever going to be a single-player market. This year, we'll see Disney launch its own streaming service. Amazon might seem like a minnow in Australia, but it has very deep pockets. And as long as consumers can get access to thousands of shows for cents a day, there's not much reason to complain.

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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