China crisis: No hope left for Quickflix

Angus Kidman 24 August 2015 NEWS


With deals with Foxtel and China both collapsing, the future of Australia's first streaming video on demand (SVOD) service is deeply uncertain.

2015 has not been a good year for Quickflix. Although it was the first mainstream subscription streaming service in Australia, launching way back in 2011, it hasn't been able to take advantage of the massive interest that has been generated in SVOD since Netflix, the dominant streaming brand around the globe, officially launched down under back in February.

Netflix's plans coincided with the rush-launch of Stan (backed by Channel Nine and Fairfax) and Presto (backed by Foxtel and Channel Seven). The end result of that was the streaming rights for almost anything you would want to watch landed on one of those three services. Quickflix's title range for unlimited streaming looks decidedly third-rate next to any of its competitors.

Quickflix's first attempt to solve that problem was to announce a partnership with Presto back in May. Under that deal, it would have sold access to Presto's streaming service, while continuing to offer pay-per-view streaming rental for more recent movies and a DVD by mail service for people who still like physical discs. (Yes, they exist; Netflix itself still has such a service in the US.)

That might not have made Quickflix the most compelling option, but it would have offered a broader catalogue and a point of difference that might have allowed it to survive.

However, that deal fell through, and last month Quickflix announced a somewhat stranger plan: to merge with an unnamed Chinese streaming service and concentrate on the Chinese media market. Whatever the merits of that plan from a business perspective, it suggested the majority of Australian consumers didn't have much to look forward to.

Now that plan has been dismissed as well. In a brief statement to the ASX today, Quickflix said that it had decided not to proceed with that plan. It says it is continuing to "pursue a China strategy", but doesn't offer any details.

For the average local viewer, the "Australia strategy" is the one that's relevant. Right now, the only possible advantage Quickflix has is by providing rentals and downloads for new-release movies, since those titles will typically take several years to end up on any all-you-can-watch streaming service. But that's not a massive growth market, and Quickflix isn't the only player. You can also do that via Foxtel On Demand, or by purchasing individual titles on Google Play or the iTunes store.

The bottom line is simple: Australia isn't a big enough market to sensibly sustain four mass-market streaming competitors. Right now, Quickflix looks a certainty to be the next one to disappear.

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