I have recently reviewed a music streaming service , a movie streaming service and an online e-book store . If there is one trend I have noticed is that we as Australian consumers have limited access to content compared to the US and Europe.
In Australia we have TV Network who own local rights of TV shows,local labels and recording companies that owns the rights of music, movie companies that control the price and way we watch movies, and local branches of UK publishing houses controlling distributions and pricing of books.
Apart from the TV networks (which still maintain local control or at least have limited overseas ownership) most of the content is owned by worldwide media companies. Companies like Sony (Japan), BMG (Germany), News Corp (Aus/US), Disney (US) and Viacom (US).
So why is it so hard to buy content?
Australia is per capita the largets downloaders of media content in the world. And while this is partly for piracy, this is mainly because Australians have little other choice. We can not download a book from Amazon because they can not sell the e-book outside the USA (but they will gleefully send the hardcover or paperback via the post). We can not watch a TV show via iTunes if iTunes do not have the right to do so (yet a proxy server and a US credit card will allow purchasing the same show from iTunes USA). We can not even play or download a copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic (yet we can again get a boxed version of the game sent via Amazon).
When content had to be shipped to Australia, localised content control makes sense. Today with worldwide digital download, it makes no sense. Even the act of converting Australian currency to US Dollars is handled instantaneously.
What we are doing in Australia is maintaining a business model that is as obsolete as buggy whip makers. If we head down the path of the USA, the local branches of large content companies are free to set prices and supply that is clearly for their intrest and not for the consumers. We see that now in e-books (agency pricing) and the fact that tV shows are not available to buy (let alone watch) until the local TV allows it.
Realistically the current system is a dead weight cost on the media content marketplace. Consumer demand plays little part in the setting of price or supply. Media companies must realise that content is no longer a finite item and the main cost of content is it’s production not distribution.
It is not the job of the Australian Government or the Australian consumers to protect inefficient industries. If media companies can compete against overseas competitors, all well and good. However, current evidence is that overseas competition will provide a richer and cheaper product in media delivery. We only have to look at the USA and its rich range of audio streaming, video streaming and on demand movies as an indicator what is possible.