Australian SVOD Service to Launch With 'Better Call Saul'

Jacob Lewis/AMC
Australian SVOD service Stan will premiere 'Better Call Saul' Down Under

The new service named Stan will launch ahead of the expected launch of Netflix Down Under in March or April

Nine Entertainment Co, the parent company of Australia's Nine television network, on Wednesday announced details of its joint venture SVOD service, StreamCo, which will launch Down Under in the coming months under the brand name Stan.

StreamCo, a joint venture between Nine and publishing giant Fairfax Media, unveiled comedian Rebel Wilson as the face of the new brand and said it has secured exclusive rights to Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul as part of its lineup of first-run content.

StreamCo CEO Mike Sneesby said Stan will be a "game changer for entertainment in Australia."

Stan will launch Better Call Saul in February under an exclusive new run of series deal with distributor Sony Entertainment Television. It also gets exclusive Australian SVOD access to all five seasons of Breaking Bad under the multiyear deal — although the critically acclaimed series, which received six Emmy awards this year for its groundbreaking final season, has been widely available on pay TV service Foxtel, existing Australian streaming services and on the Australian Broadcasting Corp.'s iView catch-up TV service. The iconic close-up of Breaking Bad character Walter White features from Wednesday on stan.com.au.

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Details of Stan's programming lineup will be rolled out in the coming weeks, but the offering will be broad with "thousands of hours of entertainment on Stan, with first-run exclusives, award-winning TV shows, classic catalog, blockbuster movies and an exciting slate of kids content."

A launch date or price point for Stan hasn't been formally announced, but it is widely expected to cost around $8.70 (AUS$10) a month for a subscription, while industry buzz has the service switching on in the Christmas period. That would give it a three-to-four-month head start on competitor Netflix, which is expected to launch its Australian-specific service in March or April, according to TV industry sources. Netflix has yet to make a formal announcement on its plans for this market.

Rebel Wilson will feature in Stan's marketing campaign as the "face" of Stan and is the perfect fit for everything Stan represents — "international star power, hugely entertaining, yet so down-to-earth," Sneesby added.

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Sneesby said StreamCo's research indicated that out of Australia's 8.5 million TV households,1.5 million were willing to pay for an SVOD service. Penetration of SVOD services in the country is expected to get up to 40 percent within four years — a similar rate of growth in the sector in the U.S. Fairfax and Nine announced the joint venture in August with each partner contributing up to $50 million as part of a multiyear agreement.

Regarding the acquisition of Better Call Saul, Nick Forward, content and product director of StreamCo, said: "We are delighted to have secured exclusive rights to 2015's most anticipated new show. We're huge fans of Breaking Bad and can't wait to see where Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould take some of these amazing characters next."

Mark Young, senior vp distribution sales Australia & New Zealand for Sony Pictures Television, added: "Premium content continues to be a key driver to digital platforms, so our landmark drama Breaking Bad is a natural fit for Stan. Digitally connected audiences are sure to love Better Call Saul just as much."

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