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Binge viewing: is there room for another streaming service?

Arts & Culture

Foxtel’s new video-on-demand service Binge boasts around 10,000-plus hours of seasons and more than 800 movies – but it might bring the Australian streaming industry closer to breaking point, writes Zona Black.

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Foxtel’s late runner in the video-on-demand market has finally entered the fray, with Binge launching across the country this week.

The Murdoch-owned company has been teasing the release for weeks through its empire of cross-promotion tools. Although it was coy in the beginning (not confirming the name, price or really any of the finer details), it’s finally appeared in all its $10-a-month glory.

It squeezes into a crowded market with a $10 monthly base rate (far cheaper than the $25 Foxtel Now) and a back catalogue of classic TV content ready for streaming.

And it brings the Australian streaming industry even closing to an inevitable breaking point, according to Victoria University screen media lecturer Marc C-Scott.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time now, but there’s going to have to be casualties with the streaming service players within 12 months,” Dr C-Scott told The New Dailyadding that US player Hulu is preparing to pounce into Australia in the coming months.

It’s also a sign of Foxtel’s continuing desperation to keep a hand in the game – whereas it used to focus on premium product subscription numbers, it’s now focused on any subscriber numbers whatsoever.

“A cheap service is an easy way to do that,” Dr C-Scott says.

What Binge’s entry does tell us is that it’s an almost certainty that we won’t be getting HBO Max any time soon – the elusive but highly prized HBO content forms the backbone of Foxtel’s baby.

Binge offers some 10,000-plus hours of seasons to zonk out to, plus more than 800 movies. (The timing does seem a little unfortunate now that restrictions are easing and we’re peeling ourselves off the couch.)

All the big hitters for Foxtel are there: Game of ThronesChernobylBig Little Lies. But whether or not these will be enough to keep subscribers on board once they’ve watched all their favourites – or even beyond the free two-week trial period being offered – is another question, Dr C-Scott says.

“(Binge) is going to have to keep changing the library or updating it in some way.

“It’s a case of how will they position themselves in the market. Will they just say, ‘These are the classics, come and watch them on our service’?”

All foxed out

If you’re a little confused about the differences between Foxtel Now and Binge, that’s fair.

They’re similar until they’re not: Both offer the option to stream content on demand.

But Foxtel Now has a broader base of content – children’s shows, lifestyle and reality programs, music, the traditional programming you associate with original Foxtel, but more stripped down.

You subscribe for a basic $25 pack, then you can add on speciality channels depending on what tickles your fancy.

With Binge, it’s mostly scripted television. There are behind-the-scenes documentaries and mini-series from some of the hit shows. It’s the cherry-picked favourites from across the Foxtel networks, but no news or sport.

Murdoch’s NewsCorp has branded it the “sassy sister” to Foxtel’s sports service, Kayo.

It starts at $10 a month for one screen on standard definition, two screens on high definition for $14 and $18 for four simultaneous screens, which is pretty in line with the other crew in the field.

Even before the launch, industry analysts have mused how Foxtel Now will work alongside Binge.

Media studies professor Amanda Lotz told TND earlier in May that given the initial brief, she struggled to see how Binge would make its mark on Australian viewers.

Professor Lotz, of the Queensland University of Technology, says any streaming service that enters the over-stuffed market today needs to make sure it has a hook; a point of difference that imploree viewers to sign up.

To be fair, Binge has tried something different: A user can hit the “surprise me” option, and Binge will throw you a piece of content, for those moments of viewing indecision.

This article was first published on The New Daily.

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