Consumer advocate CHOICE has consistently argued that Australians get a raw deal when it comes to digital media. Unfortunately, the crux of its argument often consists of comparing entirely different products, which diminishes intelligent discussion on an important issue.
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In a press release issued this morning, CHOICE proclaims that Australians are forced to pay "376% more for the same digital content". Its basis for this statement is the following table, comparing how much Series 2 of Orange Is The New Black and Series 5 of The Walking Dead would cost via Netflix in the US, NowTV in the UK and various Australian online providers. (Because the US and UK prices don't include GST, CHOICE has also stripped 10% from the prices for iTunes and Google Play.)
|Title||Cheapest||Netflix (AUD)||Foxtel Home||Foxtel Play||Quickflix||iTunes (AU)||Google Play||NowTV (UK)|
|Orange is the New Black (S2)||$8.56||$8.56||$45.45||$45.00||$39.98||$30.90||$27.26||N/A|
|Walking Dead (S5)||$8.41||N/A||$33.64||$22.73||N/A||$39.99||N/A||$8.41|
Let's be clear: despite the GST adjustment, the percentage comparisons are largely nonsensical. The prices charged by Google Play and iTunes are for a permanent downloaded copy of the show. The price from Netflix or Foxtel Play is for the ability to stream a copy. One is a purchase, the other is a rental. By CHOICE's logic, we could declare that home owners are being ripped off because the cost of buying a house is so much higher than merely renting one. The 376% figure comes from just that kind of comparison for The Walking Dead.
With that said, the price quoted for Netflix or Foxtel or Foxtel Play isn't solely for the show in question either: it's for access to a much broader group of shows. So you're not comparing apples with oranges, at all. (And that's without considering that right now you'll also potentially be paying for a VPN to get around Netflix's geoblocking.)
One salient point the chart does highlight is that even if you have an all-you-can-eat service which is cheaper than permanent copies, you won't get access to everything. The Walking Dead is not available on Netflix even in the US. No single source is ever going to offer everything.
This isn't the first time CHOICE has been guilty of this kind of apples-versus-oranges non-logic. Last year it complained that the locally available Quickflix service was more expensive than Netflix in the US, but quoted a price for Quickflix that included both streaming and DVD delivery. Again, comparisons aren't meaningful when you're being sold demonstrably different products.
We totally agree with the main point CHOICE wants to make: that while availability is this varied for Australians, arguments by the entertainment industry that forcing telcos to police piracy is essential seem a bit hollow, to put it kindly. Other steps could be taken to make entertainment access more equitable. But this kind of non-analysis does not help the cause.