Chief operations officer of troubled movie distribution company Quickflix, Tim Parsons, has admitted that the company's existence has been reliant on Netflix not being available in Australia.
Quickflix, which started out as a DVD rental company via the post, has moved to become an online streaming content provider. It is one of a growing number of online streaming companies in Australia, competing with the likes of iTunes, YouTube, and FetchTV. The company's US equivalent, Netflix, remains out of reach for Australians, however, with geo-blocking or "geo-targeting" in place that aims to prevent access to Netflix content such as Kevin Spacey's new hit political drama House of Cards.
Speaking at the Australian Digital Alliance Copyright Forum in Canberra this morning, Parsons said that because Netflix has to respect the licence agreements the studios have in place with countries around the world, companies like Quickflix can exist.
"Although geo-targeting is bloody annoying from the view of the consumer, the flip side is we don't have Netflix dominating the entire planet doing over the top distribution. We, as Quickflix, can exist," he said.
Parsons boasted that the entire series of The Sopranos, which finished in 2007, is now available to stream on Quickflix. In response to a question on why more content isn't available in Australia, Parsons said that Australia's population size makes it harder to negotiate the deals with studios that Netflix has been able to.
"The biggest challenge we have here in Australia is scale. We have to pay minimum guarantees to our partners, which is a standard way of doing business around the world. The minimum guarantees are tied into how many titles you can license at any one time," he said.
"We have to be a lot more respectful in partnering with our colleagues in the US and UK and all these other markets who are the content owners. We need to do business with them, and if we don't respect the terms of their distribution agreements with us, then they won't take our calls."
iiNet's chief regulatory officer Steve Dalby said that consumers just want the content to be available.
"I think the word 'available' has fairly broad meaning. The sort of comments that people make that it is unreasonable for consumers to tell suppliers when they want to watch stuff — that just speaks volumes of their attitude to those people," he said.
"They'd rather treat them as offenders than customers."
The last financial year has been tough for Quickflix, with the company reporting an AU$14 million loss. It has changed CEOs, and is cutting one third of its workforce. Parsons said he thinks the company will do much better this year.
"We're still working it out. We're still struggling to make our business profitable, though I think we'll get there this year."