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Netflix scores streaming rights to Batman series 'Gotham' in Australia

A promising clue that Netflix plans to launch its service in Australia next year, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

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Netflix

Netflix appears to have secured Australian streaming rights for the TV series "Gotham," even though the company doesn't yet offer its service in the country.

On Wednesday, "Gotham" producer Warner Bros. told Fairfax Media, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald, that Netflix has picked up the exclusive video-on-demand rights in Australia to stream the new TV series. "Gotham" is set up as Batman prequel with Bruce Gordon before he became commissioner, a young Bruce Wayne after his parents are killed, and a host of other familiar characters before they became famous or infamous.

With Netflix not currently available in the country, some Australians tap into the service through virtual private networks as a way to sneak past a geoblock on the US-based service. Rights holders are pushing to block the US version of the service in Australia, a measure that may play a role in Netflix's efforts to officially and directly bring its streaming service to the country.

The reported pick-up of "Gotham" for Australia is yet more evidence of Netflix's focus on expanding abroad. This past week the company launched its streaming service in France and Germany, with Austria and Switzerland next on the list. As Netflix subscriptions have started to saturate the US market, the company has increasingly been relying on Europe and other untapped regions to fuel growth. In the second quarter, Netflix added 1.1 million subscribers outside the US versus 570,000 new streaming customers in the US.

If and when Netflix does land in Australia, subscribers will have to wait awhile before they can catch episodes of "Gotham." Australia media company Nine Entertainment owns the broadcast, first-run, and in-season catch-up rights to the new series. A spokesperson for Nine Entertainment told the Sydney Morning Herald that Netflix would not be able to stream "Gotham" until a year after the show premiered on Nine.

At the time the Sydney Morning Herald published its story, Netflix had not yet responded to requests for information from Fairfax Media. But Netflix spokesman Joris Evers downplayed the significance of the "Gotham" deal as a sign that the company is planning to stream its way into Australia.

"We have global rights for a number of titles," Evers told CNET. "This doesn't foreshadow any particular new market introduction. We are all about Europe this week."

CNET also contacted Warner Bros. for comment.

On September 2, Netflix and Warner Bros. did announce an agreement for the exclusive video on demand rights to "Gotham" in all of the regions of the world in which Netflix currently operates and "select other territories." The companies added that each season of the series would be available to Netflix members in 2015 following its initial linear broadcast.

"'Gotham' is the most anticipated new series of the fall season and we are thrilled to offer it to our members around the world," Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in a statement at the time. "The Batman origin story is sure to have massive global appeal so it is fitting that, along with Warner Television, we have created a new model for distributing a show that international and domestic audiences will love."

Update, 9:17 a.m. PT: Adds comment from Netflix.