Netflix is declining to comment on an Australian report that it plans to launch an online television service in New Zealand and Australia by the middle of next year.
Netflix' California-based corporate communications director Joris Evers told Fairfax Media today Netflix had no comment on rumours it was coming to New Zealand. It had not made any announcements regarding the market.
Australian film-industry website Inside Film reported that Netflix had made firm offers to major United States studios for the Australian and New Zealand streaming rights for "a wide range of first release and library movies and television content".
Inside Film quoted two unnamed Netflix executives as saying a launch in the middle of 2015 was on the cards. However, the initial offers Netflix had made to studios for local content rights had not been viewed as "the most desirable", it said.
About 30,000 New Zealanders and at least 100,000 Australians are estimated to have found workarounds that have let them subscribe to Netflix' North American service.
Netflix does not own the New Zealand or Australian rights to the programming and it is against Netflix' terms and conditions for Australians and New Zealanders to sign up.
New Zealand's third-largest internet provider, Slingshot, last month began openly encouraging its customers to bypass Netflix' New Zealand country block using its own free service, Global Mode, that disguises the true location of customers' computers.
Evers would not say whether Netflix was concerned by Slingshot's move or had any plans to make it harder for New Zealanders to subscribe to its North American service.
Were Netflix to eventually launch an online television service in New Zealand, it could look quite different to its US service, which costs US$8.99 (NZ$10.33) a month.
Sky Television and Telecom have both been acquiring rights to television and film content ahead of the launch of their respective internet-television services later this year.
Telecom has confirmed some of the rights it has acquired are exclusive. Neither company will say whether they have come up against Netflix' buyers during their negotiations with studios.
Sky TV chief executive John Fellet has said he does not believe Sky and Telecom's launches would stop Netflix coming to New Zealand
However, Telecom spokesman Andrew Pirie has expressed doubts, arguing New Zealand was probably already a "marginal market" for Netflix.
Freeview chief executive Sam Irvine said major studios and Sky TV both had a vested interest in talking up the prospect of Netflix launching in New Zealand. In the case of studios, it might increase the amount of money other services might pay for their local streaming rights.
Such rumours also suited Sky's "political agenda" by helping it claim it faced significant competition, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News