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Opinion: Broadcasters, it’s over to you…

07 Aug 2014

Back in September 2013, a guide was created which provided users with the ability to access Netflix from within New Zealand.

This was not a new method, there were plenty of guides that showed users how to do this, but they were overly technical, and often incomplete.

This was about making content available and removing arbitrary restrictions - much like removing the region lock on DVD players many years ago.

Since then, Internet Service Providers have made it simpler for users to access services such as these, facilitating users access to programming on their own terms rather than those of the broadcasting companies.

These has led to repercussions by broadcasters towards ISPs and buzzwords such as piracy being thrown around in the press.

Using terms such as piracy has quite serious overtones. People are quite legally accessing these services, but are being made to feel like criminals through words such as ‘piracy’ and ‘copyright theft’.

Let’s be clear, this is neither piracy or copyright theft.

The user is breaching Netflix’s terms and conditions by accessing their service outside of the host country. However, the terms and conditions referring to this are themselves an ass-covering exercise by Netflix.

Due to the monopolies held by broadcasting companies that limit the distribution, Netflix have their hands tied. So they are forced to have these specific terms and conditions.

Our own broadcasting companies are up in arms about ISPs offering the ability to access Netflix et al. But rather than see the opportunities, they prefer to throw up walls, much like recording companies did in the pre-iTunes / Spotify days.

If we look at the recording companies, apparently they were going out of business due to the lack of music being purchased. But what’s happened?

Artists are still consuming vast quantities of drugs and alcohol, game changers such as our own Lorde are being found, and idiots such as Justin Bieber are still pumping out rubbish.

But the method in which we consume their music has changed. Venues such as the Vector Arena are now busier; we’re now getting artists who would never have set foot in New Zealand here on a regular basis and we’re all finding new music. It hasn’t been that bad has it?!

Now our media giants want to stop the change in viewer’s consumption methods. Sorry, but it’s too late.

I’ll give you an example of what I watch on standard broadcast television - local content. Yes, I watch New Zealand created TV and movies and I’d be happy to pay for that. Seven Days is my favourite, it always has that NZ On Air funding spot at the end, can I see more of that?

So the question I have for Sky TV, Mediaworks and TVNZ is: “How much do you spend on purchasing overseas content vs funding local content?”

Surely if you can go back to the suppliers and renegotiate your deals, you’ll have more funding to be supporting local artists and companies and creating even more content that we can sell overseas?

There’s a large chunk of our money that funds overseas media industries at the detriment of our own media industry. Our own industry consistently suffers from a lack of funding and support.

Broadcasters must understand that they influence a large number of people and MUST understand their responsibility to inform and educate their audience. Trying to maintain the status quo, because “that’s the way it’s always been done” is a massive mistake.

That’s how our industry has ended up in the position it currently is. Companies always want something for nothing from New Zealand companies, but are willing to throw big bucks at overseas options. Seriously?

So do we take the opportunity to change with the times or dig our heels in?

If Kiwi broadcasters have such a problem with Netflix, we have our own home grown version - Quickflix. It suffers from a lack of content, largely due to the frankly deplorable support from New Zealand broadcasters.

Broadcasters, stop bleating about the challengers from overseas and support local production. Then you won’t have to moan, but could make a profit!

Make Quickflix into the next Netflix, but with New Zealand content. After some great work, The Almighty Johnsons was sold to the Syfy channel. Why not let another company to be your conduit into other countries and concentrate on making good local content?

I don’t want to shock you, but the average user does know how to stream or download TV programmes. Why do you think Australia is the country with the most amount of pirated content? Because they have limited access to new content and if they do, they have to pay through the nose for the ability to do so. No one wins that battle.

Our own broadcasters had to change their model. Do you remember the days when you’d wait months to see the latest series of your favourite show?

But then broadcasters started advertising that they were showing programmes the day after they’d been shown in the US. This was due to people deciding they weren’t going to wait any more and it was easier to just download it.

So as we can see, the landscape is changing. Net neutrality is a massive driver of this. It is changing models overnight. From Uber to Netflix, the old guard are being shaken up (and not before time).

It’s how companies respond to this that will define the future of television. Do we want to lose our New Zealand content and get fed on a diet of overseas tripe, or do we want to challenge the world with the amazing content we create here?

Broadcasters, it’s over to you...

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