Netflix launched in New Zealand three years ago, attracting a tonne of media hype in the process. This struck me as bizarre as Kiwis had already been accessing Netflix using VPNs for some time. There was also controversy as one ISP offered services to circumvent geo-blocking. Whatever the case, the media attention Netflix garners in NZ is a potent indicator of their pull.
This is clear when you consider that Netflix wasn’t the first video streaming service to hit local shores. QuickFlix were among the first, launching in 2012, around the same time as Apple. Next was Lightbox in 2014. Neon also launched around this time.
The rise of video streaming services drove internet traffic through the roof. In March 2015 Chorus reported a whopping 40 percent increase in network traffic. They attributed this to Vodafone offering six-month Netflix trials and Lightbox being offered free to Spark customers.
Meanwhile, the rise and rise of Netflix in New Zealand has had wider repercussions. Both free to air networks and Sky TV are struggling. Viewers, sick crappy reality TV and trashy shouty adverts are migrating online. The broadcast TV landscape is changing fast and where it’ll end, no one knows.
So how good is Netflix in New Zealand? It is advert free. It also has a tonne of decent content. That said, anyone familiar with the service also knows Netflix’s biggest bugbear.
The folks at Finder.co.nz must’ve been aware of this. They’ve analysed how Netflix’s NZ content stacks up against Netflix offerings globally, and it turns out that New Zealand isn’t doing half bad. Finder found that of the 73 countries analysed, New Zealand has the eighth highest number of films and TV shows in its Netflix library. According to Finder that translates into 4,568 titles in total.
Japan has the largest content library, with 6,032 titles, a whopping 32 percent more than New Zealand. Indonesia has the smallest, at 1,586 titles.
So why is this? A lot of it comes down to language. Kiwi Netflix viewers can understand content from other English-speaking countries.
This means buying rights to foreign content is cheaper than financing local content. It’s both a blessing and a curse. On one hand there’s a plethora of great shows, but New Zealand’s culture gets lost amidst a sea of foreign content. The upshot of this lack of Kiwi content is quite profound.
It isn’t unusual to hear Kiwi kids talking like Yanks. It also seems that Kiwi culture feels somewhat undervalued. To what extent this is due to the media is arguable. I’d wager that decades of New Zealand TV dominated by trashy (but cheap to make) reality TV shows hasn’t helped any. It almost feels like the networks are pushing viewers away.
This also highlights a flaw in analysis based on a straight count of Kiwi content on Netflix: there is good content and there is crap content.
While NZ ranks 6th in Netflix territories for TV content (1,422 shows on offer), how many are worth watching? How many are the video version of empty junk food calories?
Regardless, it’s amazing that New Zealand has more Netflix TV content than 92 percent of the countries analysed by Finder.
I still wonder why Netflix doesn’t have a single massive content repository divided up by language. The answer is that us humans tend to have a knack for making what should be simple, complicated.
One issue is that studios now spend more making movies or TV series than the GDP of a developing nation. With so much money at stake, studios enforce copyright to generate as big a return on their investment as possible.
This is because one of the biggest challenges facing them is piracy, which has changed completely over the last few decades. Back in the days of VHS, piracy was small. The logistics of mass duplicating videotapes and distributing them was a handbrake on piracy. The rise of the world’s greatest digital photocopier, the internet, saw piracy explode. Nowadays it looks like video streaming services such as Netflix may be reducing piracy.
The other challenge is geography. Copyright laws vary by country. Different geographic markets also have varying demands for content. Then there’s local broadcasters buying the rights for a TV series or movie in a market. This in turn can prevent Netflix from offering that show in its library.
If that wasn’t enough, there are also the deals struck between Netflix and studios. Studios can charge more for a show if Netflix is to stream it in some countries compared to others.
So, what does this all mean?
The onslaught of offshore movies and TV shows swamping New Zealand content isn’t going away. In fact, if anything it’s getting bigger and easier to access thanks to the likes of Netflix. Future funding for NZ On Air isn’t guaranteed. Then there’s New Zealand TV networks. They’re allergic to airing Kiwi drama but happy to drown us in current affairs and reality TV rubbish. It’s little wonder that the rise and rise of Netflix looks set to continue.