Why Foxtel Doesn’t Deserve Our Love, Part 2

This article should not be posted here. This author should not be airing his grievances about a company that he already lambasted several months ago. He should be sitting back and enjoying Season Five of Arrested Development. Instead, he finds himself seething in frustration once more, for near identical reasons.

On May 29th, as the rest of the world was streaming the latest adventures of the Bluth family, Australians accessed their Netflix accounts to find that Arrested Development’s fifth season had not been made available in their region – yours truly among them. A quick something search eventually revealed the reason for Netflix’s lack of content: Foxtel, Australia’s television-subscription service, has secured exclusive rights to the latest episodes.

That’s not a typing error. Arrested Development – a show that is financed, produced and distributed by Netflix – is being screened by its chief competitor in Australia.

The reason why Foxtel has the rights to Arrested Development is, in part, the fault of Netflix. When the fourth season premiered five years back, Netflix was known primarily for its DVD rental service, and had only just begun the transition to streaming. The company had not yet made itself available to Australian consumers, so it signed a contract with Foxtel to air the episodes on Australian television.

It would appear that same contract also gave Foxtel the rights to any future episodes, hence why the fifth season appears on Pay TV. That may be a boon for the Netflix executives, but it puts the people who consume Netflix at a disadvantage – most Australians choose the streaming service for both its value and the convenience, two attributes which, as this author has previously discussed, cannot be applied to Foxtel.

Arrested Development will be screening on The Comedy Channel, which is not available as part of the subscription service’s basic $26 package – those wanting that option need to pay an extra $10 for the Entertainment Plus Package. A better option for many is to stream the series on Foxtel Now, the company’s relatively-affordable On-Demand service that offers a two-week trial period. But that presents another problem.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the first four episodes of Season Five will only be available on Foxtel Now for one week; episodes five to eight are available the following week, again for a period of just seven days. For many modern-day adults, this simply isn’t feasible – a fortnight is a very small window to watch a series, especially when they have family, work or study commitments to meet.

If time isn’t an issue for said adult, then cost certainly will be, since the Australian consumer is not one who parts with their cash readily. Australia considers itself to be the Land of the Fair Go, committed to delivering services that are affordable and accessible to everyone, which is why so many of us celebrated the arrival of Netflix in the country – it was the one service capable of making Foxtel rethink its business practices.

Given these many factors, it baffles as to why Netflix would want to continue honouring their contract with Foxtel. It certainly can’t be for revenue purposes – there’s always money in the banana stand, after all – nor could it be to boost its brand, for Netflix has already amassed more subscribers than its competitor (2.9 million against Foxtel’s 2.8 million, according to Roy Morgan).

All of this begs the question: When will the fifth season of Arrested Development be available to Australian subscribers of Netflix? Well, that’s anybody’s guess – it could be toward year’s end, when the remainder of the season premieres, or more likely, in twelve months’ time, as is often the case with content that is exclusive to Foxtel. Hopefully neither scenario will come to fruition, but this author is not confident.

Once again, Foxtel has proven that it is out-of-touch with the wants and needs of consumers, preferring to withhold popular content rather than provide it to them. Arrested Development is just the latest example of the company holding viewers to ransom, making them pay unreasonable amounts for a series which could be made available elsewhere for much cheaper.

Let’s just pray Foxtel stops engaging in these dodgy business practices, or else it won’t be the last time they cop a hiding from this author.

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