Netflix Has More Customers Than Ever In Australia

Original content like Stranger Things has help Netflix stave off a customer revolt. Photo: Netflix

Talk of a customer revolt has fizzled as Netflix's growing stable of original content continues to win over new subscribers at home and abroad. It's only 18 months since Netflix officially opened its doors in Australia but it's already seen the demise of one local competitor in Presto, plus the foreign raider has forced Australia's volatile Freeview consortium to finally build its long-promised cross-network streaming service which is set to launch in November.

Of course thousands of Australian homes were already loyal Netflix customers long before the service officially launched in Australia. The streaming giant happily looked the other way for years as we snuck into the US service – relying on various geo-dodging workarounds like VPNs and DNS services to masquerade as Americans and pay in greenbacks.

At the start of this year Netflix finally took the plunge and launched in practically every country around the world, while also deciding to rigorously enforce its geo-blocking efforts to stop subscribers sneaking across borders to watch shows which aren't available in their own country. At the same time its US price hike finally kicked in – something which Netflix flagged more than a year in advance. Australians who are signed up as US customers might find that it's now cheaper to subscribe locally once you account for the exchange rate and foreign transaction fees.

A backlash against Netflix seemed to be brewing, with customers unhappy about losing access to foreign content while paying more for a US subscription. There are still ways to beat Netflix's geo-blocking, but they're becoming harder to find and less reliable.

At one point the streaming giant almost seemed to be at war with its customers but for all the talk of loyal subscribers abandoning the service, Netflix has just had a bumper quarter which exceeded expectations. It added 370,000 new subscribers in the US and another 3.2 million in other countries including Australia where subscriber numbers continue to grow according to Roy Morgan Research figures.

The secret to Netflix's success seems to be its strong push to commission original content such as Marco Polo, Stranger Things and its string of Marvel hits like Luke Cage. Not only are these shows popular, they're also available the same day globally because Netflix owns the international rights. Meanwhile it's forced to enforce geo-blocking as part of the licensing deal for other content as the licensing conditions vary from country to country.

Netflix is aiming for half of its library to be original content, an admirable goal but one which seems less ambitious when you take into account that its streaming library has shrunk considerably in the last few years.

This obviously doesn't bother people too much judging by Netflix's healthy subscriber growth. Keep in mind that everything on Netflix, even the original content, can be had for free elsewhere if you're prepared to bend the rules. The fact that people choose to pay for Netflix every month means the streaming service must be doing something right – both in terms of content and convenience.

Have you abandoned Netflix as it's enforced geo-blocking and slimmed down its library? Have you signed up recently to see what all the fuss is about? What could Netflix do to retain you as a satisfied customer?

This article originally appeared in Digital Life, The Sydney Morning Herald's home for everything technology. Follow Digital Life on Facebook and Twitter.

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