What's on TV? If you're like many Bay of Plenty residents with a video streaming service such as Netflix, your options have multiplied. Dawn Picken spoke with users who've dropped satellite TV, or scaled back to stream their own bliss.
TV talk is turning increasingly to what we're streaming online. I asked friends, acquaintances and strangers on social media forums to reveal their viewing habits. Alicia, Debbie, Anita, Anne and Julia are hooked on Suits. Elton and Maree have devoured Breaking Bad. Mandy loves Orange is the New Black, along with Rake, Grace and Frankie, Love and SeaChange. Mandy's a night owl who said she watches around 20 hours of Netflix per week.
I hadn't heard of most of these programmes until now (see graphic: "Where the Shows Are"). Matua's Veronica Craw said revelation is one of the best parts of video on demand. "I recently discovered Shameless and watched all five seasons."
There's something greedy and almost gluttonous about absorbing a whole dammed series in one go.
Veronica said Netflix is a welcome alternative to her Sky satellite subscription. She convinced her telly-loving husband, Andy, to embark on a Sky diet, even though it meant foregoing favourite programmes. "One day I hijacked him at my girlfriend's and he saw the other [Netflix] content and we looked at the price. He said he'll have to get over not being able to watch some of the other programmes."
Andy has subscribed to Sky for more than two decades. He said he recently trimmed his subscription package from around $200 per month to just under $50. "It's a no-brainer."
The Scottish native and Paradise Radio host said he recently binge-watched Still Game, a Scottish sitcom, and has seen 132 of 184 episodes of American sitcom The Bob Newhart Show. "I stayed home one day last weekend and watched about 60 episodes. There are no ads, and you really get to know the characters. I'm a comedy freak. I like to laugh. Once you start laughing, what's the point of stopping?"
Andy estimates he watches up to 28 hours of Netflix per week and spends about $16 per month for a subscription that includes viewing on up to four devices.
Veronica said the couple watches sport on free-to-air TV. "I'm not that obsessed about sport that I need to watch it live all the time. If I can wait and watch it in a couple hours, I'm good with that."
AN EXPERT'S TAKE
University of Waikato Screen and Media Studies Associate Professor Geoff Lealand said it appears Kiwis have too much TV choice, rather than too little, and too few hours in which to fit it in. He said online content is replacing what we used to watch. He subscribes to Sky for favourite programmes - in small doses.
"I don't enjoy binge-viewing. Most drama is not serial, it's series. It really requires a pause between episodes. That's part of the pleasure of Game of Thrones."
He said he tried to catch up on a season last year in one go. "It was just horrible to watch hour upon hour and think, 'That's it?' Really, really good drama like Game of Thrones or Fargo requires a period of digesting and anticipating the next episode. I'm contrarian on this, because I know people want instant gratification." Professor Lealand said part of the pleasure of a narrative is the delay. "There's something greedy and almost gluttonous about absorbing a whole damned series in one go."
He said the problem is exacerbated by the fact New Zealand was always getting shows and movies after the rest of the world, whereas now, Kiwis expect to watch at the same time as everyone else.
The professor said Sky faces its first real competition in years and must find a unique selling point to retain its base. The company reported record revenue ($928 million) for 2015, despite a 1.6 per cent drop in subscribers. Sky launched an upgrade late last year allowing customers to connect set-top boxes to the internet to stream content. The changes will move the company away from satellites toward the internet. Spokeswoman Kirsty Way said between 20 to 30 per cent of set-top boxes are internet enabled. In addition, she said the proposed merger between Sky and Vodafone (set for a vote July 6) would result in more products and services, including better online distribution and product bundles. "We already have Neon and Fan Pass [with sports content] and plan to offer more online services going forward."
We had Sky for nine years. We've always had it until the point where Netflix came in and offered a $10 a month option. We were paying $90 a month for Sky. It made absolutely no sense to us
Major networks are trying to keep viewers by providing programmes unavailable on Netflix, such as live shows, including more reality and sport programming. A new study showed the internet is stealing television's prime-time slot from 7pm to 9pm. While the Cisco survey was done in the US, experts say New Zealand is seeing similar trends. Roy Morgan Research in its State of the Nation: New Zealand report recently found 900,000 Kiwis used a paid streaming service such as Netflix, Lightbox (owned by Spark) and Neon (Sky).
Netflix, which launched in New Zealand last March, had 246,000 paid subscribers by the end of 2015; 128,000 Kiwis had signed onto Lightbox and 22,000 subscribed to Sky's Neon service. While Sky would not disclose subscriber numbers, a spokeswoman said the Morgan figure was "too low".
FINDING NEW SHOWS
Tauranga's Alicia Necklen said she and her family had Sky on and off five years before dropping it three months ago. Though her husband enjoys watching rugby, they can still stream some NRL games online. These days, the couple is engrossed in Suits on Netflix ("Harvey Specter ... he's so dreamy"), while their three boys download games from Apple TV. "They like being able to look at things on YouTube and love movies on Netflix.
There's never a shortage of things to watch." Alicia said she used to watch broadcast shows like My Kitchen Rules and The Block. "We don't even have regular TV now, only Apple TV."
Julia Page and her family moved to Papamoa last weekend. As the home electronics whiz, Julia connected the family with television - Freeview, as well as Lightbox and Netflix. "We had Sky for nine years. We've always had it until the point where Netflix came in and offered a $10 a month option. We were paying $90 a month for Sky. It made absolutely no sense to us."
And while Julia said she used to enjoy Game of Thrones on Sky, she's happy with current options. "Netflix has House of Cards, Bloodline, Mad Men - we just binged out on the whole series. There's so much content on there, you can easily make new decisions, instead of getting into something you had to pay for that had high costs."
Andy Craw said video on demand means not settling for what's on telly. "It's having the choice, and the choice is enormous ... there's guy things, humour men like, war stories and tough guys ... meanwhile, everything girls like is on there, too."