If you’ve been reading the news this past week, you’ve probably heard of a surprising development for Australia’s biggest broadcast TV provider, Foxtel – though you won’t have heard the news directly from the company just yet, as no official announcement has been made.
Reports started to emerge, though, of a much-rumoured deal that’s been struck between Foxtel and streaming giant Netflix, the first stage of which involves Netflix taking on global distribution of a major Foxtel drama production. The second season of the much-acclaimed Secret City, produced once again by Foxtel, will be seen around the world by Netflix’s audience – over 100 million potential viewers.
That’s great news for Australian drama in general, and Secret City in particular – while Foxtel viewers will be able to see the new season of the political thriller starting March 4th on Fox Showcase (and of course, stream it on demand), viewers around the world will see the show on Netflix at the same time as Australia.
The Big News
Alongside that announcement, though, came reports that a much broader partnership deal has been signed between Foxtel and Netflix – something that’s been rumoured for some time. According to reports, the deal will see Foxtel offering Netflix’s shows and movies for streaming on Foxtel’s iQ set top box, with the ability to move your Netflix subscription over to your Foxtel account so you get everything included in the one package.
Aside from the single-bill convenience factor, that would mean that the iQ box can become a central entertainment hub that delivers it all – satellite pay TV, on-demand streaming and rentals, free-to-air TV and Netflix side by side on the one device, with everything accessible from the one remote. That “ownership of HDMI1” is something Foxtel’s talked about before (notably with their Foxtel Now streaming box) but this could finally be the thing that clinches it; anyone with Netflix on their iQ box will just need the iQ remote and a comfy couch to be all set.
What About the Rest?
There’s only one minor stumbling block here – Netflix isn’t the only streaming service Australians use. Locally owned competitor Stan has over a million customers, and then there’s the smaller fish with loyal customer bases – documentary streamers DocPlay, reality TV service hayu, and let’s not forget the rising presence of Amazon Prime Video. They and others have become part of day to day TV life for a lot of people – so what does a deal like this mean for them?
Well, with the sheer size of the Foxtel customer base, Netflix is likely to gain a key strategic advantage simply by being on Foxtel’s platform. With everything from Game of Thrones to the AFL footy to Stranger Things accessible all in the one place, the smaller streaming services will potentially find it harder to hold people’s attention and hang on to subscribers.
It’s entirely possible that Foxtel could open up their platform to other services as well, which would create a very interesting situation similar to what’s being seen in the UK at the moment. In that territory, satellite TV provider Sky (no longer part of the News Limited stable that owns a big part of Foxtel) has integrated Netflix into its own custom-designed set top box, the “Sky Q”. With that a success, they then added music streaming service Spotify as well – both billable directly through your Sky account.
The time could come when you’ll see most of the major streaming services available as add-on options for your Foxtel service, with the iQ set top box acting as a hub for your entire world of TV and music entertainment.
A New iQ?
The question that we won’t know the answer to just yet is whether this Netflix deal will mean a brand new iQ box to take the place of (or exist alongside) the iQ4. It’s entirely possible: Netflix, for one, generally demands a dedicated Netflix button on remote controls so their customers can find the app nice and fast. And of course, the box has to be powerful and versatile enough to not only run the native apps for Netflix and other streaming providers, but also handle the copy protection built into those services.
The iQ4 is a very powerful piece of kit – especially in comparison to its immediate predecessor, the iQ3. It also runs on hardware that should, in theory at least, be perfectly capable of handling Netflix.
But it’s just as possible – and some news articles have flagged it as a certainty – we’ll see a brand new iQ box to bring your Foxtel into a new age of integrated Netflix and a seamless interface between streaming and satellite. If that does happen, you’ll be able to upgrade easily as usual.
Of course, the big unknown is how much it’ll cost to have Netflix added to your Foxtel and billed as one service. Our guess, though, is that you’ll see pricing that’s very close to, if not cheaper than, what you pay right now – with Netflix an inclusion in, perhaps, the Platinum pack.
Down the track, if other streaming services jump on board, Foxtel might do a batch of them as their own “pack”, integrating all the programming on the one set-top box interface so you can browse and watch across multiple services without having to mess around with running separate apps or switching between devices.
Something like that might be a long way off – but with Netflix arriving on Foxtel later in 2019, you can bet that the other streaming services are watching very, very closely.