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TV viewing habits change with cost pressures – piracy increasing, as are ads on streamers

Foxtel-owned Binge follows Netflix and introduces ads. Here's some subscriber strategies.

Foxtel-owned Binge follows Netflix and introduces ads. Here's some subscriber strategies. Photo: TND/Getty/ Mopsdackel spitz (YouTube)

The Foxtel-owned streamer Binge promotes itself as “unturnoffable”.

It might just be “unaffordable”, as it now becomes the third streamer to introduce ads on its entry-level tier package, following in the footsteps of global giant Netflix four months ago, and Disney+.

As of March 30, Binge’s basic $10 package will also incorporate – and cap – ads to four minutes per hour to run before and during your favourite show.

If you don’t want ads, expect to pay $16 per month.

Netflix has its Basic with ads plan at $6.99, but if you don’t want ads, and live in an household that needs access to four devices at once, it’s $22.99.

There has been a rise in the number of Australians illegally accessing media online after two years of declining piracy rates, according to the recently released 2022 Consumer Survey on Online Copyright Infringement.

Video games were the only category with a continued decline in unlawful consumption, whereas movie, television, music and live sport piracy all grew by 2 to 5 per cent between 2021-22.

“Rates of piracy went up last year in Australia … it is absolutely becoming harder and harder for people to get access to their favourite shows in a logical and cost-effective manner,” Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre researcher Oliver Eklund said.

“In Australia, we also have all sorts of convoluted licensing agreements from the early streaming period to contend with, which can muddy the waters.”

He also describes the streamers change of advertising strategy as “experimental” since “so much marketing material has traded on the ad-free nature of these services”.

“Given the mounting losses and the challenges for increasing subscriber numbers, we can expect to see a lot more experimentation that disrupts some of the rules we had grown accustomed to.”

So what are some sustainable, and legal, options to ensure we can watch what we want, when we want?

Succession Season 4

Australia’s Sarah Snook returns with Kieran Culkin and Jeremy Strong in the new season of Succession. Photo: HBO

‘Frustrating’ changes

In 2023, Australia’s favourite shows and movies could be spread over as many as 10 different streaming services, most of which increased their subscription prices in the past two years.

It’s a lot of juggling.

“Those who really do not want advertising can continue to pay for an ad-free subscription … in the case of Netflix, the ad-supported plan was introduced at a lower price point,” Mr Eklund said.

“However, for Binge –  just like Disney+ – the ads are being added to the basic subscription plan, which makes it a more frustrating change for users.”

He said Stan has been “fairly dismissive of adding ad-supported plans” … but “Netflix was also dismissive of the idea not too long ago and here we are”.

“It’s something that is on the mind of most major streaming services.”

Will we see subscriptions drop with the introduction of ads?

“It’s hard to say definitively – it depends a lot on the continued value that consumers see in the service, and if the price point matches that value.

“The Binge changes will also come into effect just after the season premiere of Succession.

“It’s possible that high demand for the HBO premium drama series and positive word of mouth could see an increase in subscriber numbers which doesn’t necessarily reflect a view on the addition of advertising.

The White Lotus

Jennifer Coolidge in the first episode of season 2 of The White Lotus, filmed in Sicily. Photo: Binge

Options

Although the Attorney-General’s report revealed the biggest driver of piracy was the draw of free content – with 31 per cent of respondents saying they would be more likely to illegally access media if they didn’t have to pay – there is another way to look at it.

“As well as people returning to piracy, juggling subscriptions is certainly something we may see more of, where people activate a subscription just for The Last of Us or The Mandalorian, and deactivate after the season is over,” Mr Eklund said.

De-activate Binge after watching The White Lotus and The Last of Us?

Time consuming, yet do-able.

The other thing to watch is bundling.

“A lot of businesses in the streaming industry make most of their money somewhere else.

“Apple makes most of its money from the iPhone, not Ted Lasso on Apple TV+, Amazon from Amazon web servers, not The Rings of Power on Prime Video.

“On both of these services you can already subscribe to the streaming platform as part of a broader bundle with other features.

“Prime membership for Amazon has all sorts of other perks, and you could argue is actually mainly for shopping.”

Mr Eklund said Apple One puts music, TV, cloud storage and other features together, while Disney is experimenting with OnePass to offer some savings on deliveries. 

Harry and Meghan

Harry and Meghan in Africa during their six-part docuseries, which broke records as the No.1 global hit for weeks after it was released on December 8. Photo: Netflix

Comparisons

The New Daily was given access to the subscriber behaviour of one Melbourne family with three teenage children living at home, viewing their bills for the month of January.

Each member of the family wanted to watch their favourite shows at different launch dates over summer.

This is what they paid. Per month. Without ads.

It works out to be $233.94 to subscribe to the following:

  • Netflix: $22.99
  • Disney+: $13.99 (which went up without notice from $11.99)
  • Stan: $16 (currently no ads)
  • Apple TV+: $9.99
  • Paramount+: $8.99
  • Binge: $15.99
  • Amazon Prime Video: $5.99
  • Foxtel: Platinum HD: $140

The total if you commit to a full year? A whopping $2807.28.

Subscribe to four

According to the 11th edition of Deloitte’s Media Consumer Survey, the average household pays for three subscriptions.

Gen-Z (mostly 22-year-olds) are taking the lead with 4.5 subscriptions, with 58 per cent saying they would pay for ad-free TV and movies, and 46 per cent would accept 12 minutes of ads an hour for a free subscription.

If we choose four with ads, leave out Foxtel (Binge) and use options like Kayo Sports to watch up to 50 of your favourite sports, here’s how it looks.

This is also no sharing of passwords, and just a single subscriber.

  • Netflix: $6.99
  • Disney+: $7.99
  • Amazon Prime Video: $5.99
  • Binge: $10
  • Kayo: $25

Total: $57.97 a month

Keep in mind Netflix is set to crack down on password sharing, so at least 1.5 million viewers will be booted from the service by March.

Compounded with the growing cost of necessities and inflation at a three-decade high of 7.8 per cent, the allure of free content is more tempting than ever.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said the piracy statistics were “disturbingly high” and hoped technologies would be adapted to protect Australian artists while ensuring consumers can still easily enjoy entertainment media.

The federal government has announced a review of copyright enforcement mechanisms open for public consultation until March 7.

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