Netflix announces NZ launch date

ABOUT TIME: Kiwis have been eagerly awaiting Netflix's moves Down Under.

ABOUT TIME: Kiwis have been eagerly awaiting Netflix's moves Down Under.

A top Netflix executive has downplayed suggestions its New Zealand offering could be a "poor man's version" of its popular United States service.

Netflix announced today that it would launch an internet television service in New Zealand and Australia in March.

Director of communications and technology Cliff Edwards said Netflix' goal was to get at least 10 per cent of households that had broadband to subscribe, though he would not give the timeframe in which it hoped to achieve that target.

Netflix

Netflix

The company usually has to negotiate the rights to programming in each country in which it operates and has provided few details of what its New Zealand service will offer, beyond announcing a smattering of shows that would be unknown to most Kiwis.

Nor has it revealed how much the service will cost.   

READ MORE: Is this a game-changer?

Confirmation the US online television powerhouse had finally set its sights on New Zealand was enough to send Sky Television's share price down 9 cents to $6.40 in less than an hour's trading on the NZX.

Sky TV chief executive John Fellet said it took all competitors seriously "especially global ones".

But he said Netflix would be entering a crowded market in New Zealand and he doubted its local service would be up to its US service, which HAD about 40 million subscribers. That was  because some of the content it showed in the US had already been bought by Sky and existing internet television companies.

Netflix' US service offers a vast catalogue of films and shows for US$8.99 (NZ$11.40) a month but Edwards would not say how many hours of programming Netflix would offer in New Zealand and Australia.

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"We don't compare services from one country to another," he said.

Instead, its services in each country were different "organic creatures" that would grow and expand as it learned the tastes of each market, he said

However, there would be only minor differences between the New Zealand and Australian offerings.

"We think there will be a lot on the New Zealand service that people will like," he said, adding it would include a lot of Netflix' own "great original" series that it had commissioned, and other content "in great quality".

Shows that will be available at launch include original series Marco Polo and BoJack Horseman, childrens' titles such as DreamWorks Animation's All Hail King Julien, documentaries Virunga and Mission Blue, and stand-up comedy specials Uganda Be Kidding Me, Live and Jim Jefferies: Bare.

Netflix said in a statement that more content would be added through the year, such as family thriller Bloodline, "super hero" tale Marvel's Daredevil and sci-fi show Sense8. 

Edwards said Netflix would talk more about it plans for locally-produced programmes at its launch in March. 

Popular movies and shows would be available in HD and some in the new "ultra high-definition" 4K standard, which offered four times the screen resolution of HD.

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders are believed to have subscribed to Netflix' US service even though that is against the company's terms and conditions because it does not have all the local rights to that programming.

There has been speculation Netflix might clamp down on such back-door access once it launches its local service, for example by attempting to stop people signing up to its US service using New Zealand-issued credit cards. If that speculation provided correct, the local launch could be bittersweet for existing fans.

But Sydney-based Netflix spokesman Luke McClelland said it was already doing "everything it possibly could" to block such access.  Edwards said he believed the number of New Zealanders who had bypassed its blocks and signed up to Netflix US service was far fewer than the 30,000 speculated in a report in May.

Netflix' arrival in New Zealand is a challenge to Sky Television - which confirmed it remained on track to launch its internet television service, Neon, by Christmas - and to Spark which launched rival Lightbox in August.

Sky TV shares had recovered much of their losses and were trading 4 cents down on the day at $6.44 in mid-afternoon trading.

FACT BOX

What do I need to watch Netflix?

Netflix can be viewed on internet-connected devices such as desktop or laptop computers, iPads and smartphones, through a web browser.

Can I watch it on TV?

Yes, if you can connect your computer to your TV via an HDMI cable or stream it to your TV through a games console or streaming media player. You can stream Netflix direct to an internet-connected television if it is a "smart" TV that supports Netflix' app.

Will my broadband be good enough?

It may depend on things like the quality of your home wiring and how many people in your home are sharing your internet connection at the time. The faster your connection, the more reliable the service is likely to be.

In the United States, Netflix recommends subscribers have a minimum broadband speed of 500 kilobits per second, which is not fast by today's standards. Watching programmes in the ultra high-definition 4K format will require a faster connection than watching programmes in standard definition or HD.

Will you use Netflix? Let us know in the comments.

 - Stuff

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