The time consuming process of classifying material is expected to begin causing delays in TV shows and movies being added to the Australian version of Netflix.
As the video on demand service grows and continues to invest heavily in original content, the company is warning Australian customers could lose out if they have to wait for material to be classified by the government before being added to the Australian Netflix library. The impact on New Zealand customers is being investigated today.
According to the company's global public policy manager Josh Korn, Netflix is effectively hostage to the systems of classification put in place by the Australian government and the process will soon be unable to keep up with the amount of content being produced.
Speaking to IT News, Korn called on the Federal Government to allow on demand streaming services such as Netflix to classify their own content.
"As Netflix increases its investments in content, more and more titles will need to be given an Australian classification," Korn said.
"However, there are significant obstacles associated with classifying large volumes of content," he warned. "Processing delays could result in content being premiered later in Australia than in other Netflix markets."
If Korn gets his wish, it would bring Netflix in line with similar schemes used by traditional broadcasters and the gaming industry.
Broadcasters typically use in-house content assessors while gaming producers rely on a classification tool developed in collaboration with the International Age Rating Coalition.
Some of the content owned by Netflix has never been shown in Australia and thus needs to be accompanied by a recognised classification and appropriate warnings. Such a process is time consuming, costly and could ultimately produce a backlog of content waiting to be approved for the Australian market.
Korn told IT News the current situation could be an impediment to growth for the company and other streaming video on demand (SVOD) services in the Australian market.
He would like to see a "technology-neutral" approach that modernises the mandate of the country's Classification Board.
"There is currently no capacity for SVOD providers to self-classify the content supplied to their customers," he lamented.
The difference in the Australian catalogue to what's on offer in the US library has been a sore point for some Australian customers in the past.
Primarily due to geographically-based licensing rights, some content available in North America is not accessible to Australian customers. If a backlog of content waiting to be classified were to occur it would likely exacerbate the issue and leave many Aussie Netflix subscribers frustrated.