Pirates & Pillaging


 Netflix has arrived in the Antipodes with one of it’s aims being to end the high amount of piracy down here.

Truth be told, part of the piracy problem stems from the often ridiculously inflated prices that we pay down here for digital products. How can a company justify higher prices for the Australian/New Zealand markets when the product is a download? Quite rightly, the Australian government is holding hearings into why this situation exists, and the answer that seems to be constantly popping up is “greed.” 

Fair point to charge more money for a premium product–it’s the entertainment business, after all–but it’s a bit ridiculous to charge different prices in different countries when the product is intangible.

What has really got my goat about Netflix’s roll out has been how it arrogantly shafted the local entertainment industry with no announcement of Australian nor New Zealand production (FYI: they’re doing the same thing in Canada). In my view, that’s just as unacceptable as piracy. You don’t just come into a market and take without giving back or providing opportunities. 

The Australian government has announced plans for a tax on “streaming services” like Netflix, and frankly I hope they tax them hard, and that the money goes towards funding local content. 

As for Netflix, I doubt they ever would’ve had me as a return customer (disclaimer: I used to have a Netflix account back when they actually sent DVDs. It was a great place to discover LGBT films), but I hope they have a change of heart, because at some point all the buzz will fade and you’re left with diminished profits.   




When I Think of Home Now

As I write this I’m watching the final of the Rugby League Four Nations. For those unfamiliar with Rugby League this is a biennial tournament between Australia, England, New Zealand, and one other (un)lucky country.

This year the final is between Australia and New Zealand. Prior to last year, anytime Australia or New Zealand play, I have always stayed politely neutral, as I’m an Australian permanent resident and also a Kiwiphile.

After living in New Zealand for a year, however, I’ve changed.

I’m a Kiwi.

Well, I’m an American-New Zealander who lives in Australia.

Having lived outside of the U.S. for almost 6 years, I’ve seen my sense of what nationality I am become a lot more complicated that I ever thought it could be.

The best way I could describe it is with something I call the “warm, fuzzy feeling factor.” When you think of a place that gives you that feeling where is it? (Note, for Dutch speakers think “gezellig” or for Welsh speakers “hiraeth.”)

For me, I think of several places instantly :

A snowy morning in Wisconsin, an autumn afternoon in New York, an evening in Wellington or Rotorua, and a foggy morning in Auckland.

These places and the time I spent in them remind me of times I’ve felt grounded and certain.

That’s home in my book, and yes, it’s odd that with as many years as I’ve lived here in Australia, it hasn’t yet felt like home.

It’s a bit hard to feel grounded when to this day whenever I meet someone and they know that I’ve lived here for a long time I still get asked what I think of Australia. Maybe it’s me, but I think 5 years is a sign that I think it’s pretty nice place.

The next question tends to be do I think I might go back to the U.S. Which is a rather odd question for me personally, since though I’m from the U.S. (and as I’ve also pointed out here before, the U.S. is itself more like 50 separate countries), the country has moved on since I left and so have I. So who’s to say that we’ll be able to get in sync again like we were when I was younger?

Home is where the heart is, as the old saying goes. In my opinion, the heart thrives where it feels supported and part of a greater “family.” (Probably I should say “whanau.”)

This isn’t to say that Australia won’t ever invoke those feelings, it’s just that Australia is not going to make it easy.

And the strange thing, the fact that it won’t, probably makes me love it more.

By the way, as I type this New Zealand is beating Australia 14 to 12.



If I Ran A Commercial Network (Part Two)

RTL Television

Image via Wikipedia

Continuing on from the previous post:

Fourth, Ratings are important but not everything.

The commercial networks are too hair-trigger with their cancellations. I find this terribly ironic since they also seem to not give a fig about consistent scheduling.

Still, they shuffle, promote, and withdraw programmes with lightning speed when the ratings don’t come up to scratch. This year alone, Nine has put the kibosh on programmes by Ben Elton (3 weeks, and admittedly it was dire but retooling never seemed to be on the cards) and Eddie McGuire (3 weeks & 3 weeks with two heavily marketed shows). Imports aren’t immune either. If you liked Medium or Supernatural or even Law & Order, you were hard pressed to find what time and even if they were airing, such was the speed at which they were scheduled and withdrawn.

As much as I take aim at NBC, the execs there are aware that very few shows come with a built-in audience, and that you have to allow them to grow. Should an executive be reading this and dismiss it with “why continue to air anything that no one is watching,” I’d like to refer him/her to the previous post about the basic and sacred agreement between network and viewer is.

Without a doubt the internet is reducing the audience, but the schedulers and programmers are themselves HASTENING that fragmentation.

This leads me to my controversial proposal.

Let some NZ networks broadcast in Australia and vice versa. Both Australian and NZ commercial corporations LOVE to scream poverty, so let’s relax any barrier prohibiting exclusively AUSTRALIAN & NZ based networks from broadcasting within each other’s territory. TV3  probably could whip Seven and Nine into shape as a competitor, and Ten would benefit from C4 as competition. TVNZ (despite losing its charter, thank you Uncle John) is still a state-owned entity and therefore would not be eligible, nor would AuntyABC & Aunty Mame (SBS).

This would bring the commercial FTA landscape in both countries to a total of 5 or 6 main broadcasters (I’m excluding the baby channels) and drawing on a combined viewing populace of close to 30 million.  Now, I would say without reservation that local and respective national news must be provided for with this expansion*, but amongst 6 broadcasters there would certainly be enough space as well as impetus to provide both domestic and international programming as well as consistent on-time scheduling.

*As well as adhering to broadcast standards in each country.

If this seems radical, then examine RTL and Canal + in Europe, both of which are examples of how to run successful international commercial channels. And if the Antipodean networks aren’t careful, then both of them will swoop in quicker than the Fremantle Doctor.