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Australia gets half of what the US gets on streaming services

New research shows Australian streaming services have less than half of the catalogues of their US counterparts. Yeah, we're angry too.

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New research shows Australians are massively losing out compared to Americans when it comes to streaming services.

Ian Knighton/CNET

Australia, we've long thought we're getting ripped off when it comes to what media we can legally access online. Now we have the stats to prove it.

When it comes to what we can watch on streaming services, new research conducted by the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and ACCAN, shows Australians are massively losing out compared to Americans.

Only 38 percent of movies and 39 percent of TV titles available in the US via streaming services are available here, according to the research [PDF].

Australians are also more likely to be required to download or rent movies and TV shows, rather than get them through their regular monthly streaming subscription. Roughly half of the titles available to purchase in the US can also be streamed, while only a third of titles available to buy in Australia can be streamed, according to the report.

But it's not just TV and movie streaming that is coming up short for Aussies. The report also found:

  • Music albums are 24 percent more expensive in Australia
  • Games are 20 percent more expensive in Australia
  • Australians can access less than two-thirds of the movies available to US customers through rental and download-to-own services like iTunes and the Google Play stores
  • Aussie catalogues focus on top 50 films, whereas US catalogues are larger, thanks to a combo of top 50 and a "long tail" of niche films

The research feeds into a long-running debate in Australia over access and pricing of content. While rights holders try and block sites like The Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents in court, many Australians argue easy access to legal content is the way to reduce piracy rates in Australia.

Ultimately, that comes down to getting reasonably-priced access to movies, TV shows, games and albums, and making sure Australians don't have to wait months to access content that has already been released overseas.

Despite the launch of more services in Australia, as well as the government's IT pricing inquiry (and the industry's insistence that it is learning from its mistakes), associate professor Nicolas Suzor from QUT's School of Law says Aussies still lose out.

"Australian consumers have complained for a long time that they're not getting a fair deal," he said. "Our research shows that this continues to be a problem."

Suzor says pricing has improved over the past five years and conditions for purchasing (rather than streaming) films and TV shows are "quite good". Music and games are still more expensive to buy in Australia, he says, "for no good reason."

In a statement on the report, an Amazon spokesperson said the titles available on Amazon Prime Video vary by country "because of licensing rights," but that the company would continue to add original and licensed programming for Australian members. 

The research goes into detail about the different access methods and services available to Australians, and was based on research across services like Google Play, iTunes, Netflix, Foxtel, Stan and Spotify. The team looked at pricing and availability of 3,880 films, 1,298 television series, 6,118 albums and 346 console games during one month of 2017.

You can read the full PDF of the Australian Consumer Access to Digital Content report here.

Netflix did not respond to a request for comment. Stan and Foxtel declined to comment. 

Update, 3.00 p.m. AEST: Adds comment from Amazon.

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