Australian online video rental subscription company Quickflix is extending its streaming service WatchNow to Samsung IETVs, Blu-ray Disc (BD) players and the Galaxy line of Android tablets and smartphones. WatchNow launched on Sony-branded HDTVs and BD players in October 2011, PCs in November 2011 and Sony's PlayStation 3 games console in December 2011. The Quickflix streaming service, which complements the company's online DVD and BD rental service in Australia, is priced at A$14.99 ($15.49) per month for new subscriptions, or A$7.00 ($7.25) per month for existing online rental video subscribers.
Quickflix's long term growth is predicated on the success of its streaming business, which in the short term means supporting its physical rental business. Quickflix also faces competition from incumbent telco Telstra which offers IP-delivered movies on Samsung and LG branded IETVs and connectable BD players via its T-Box and online content service BigPond Movies, while Australia's leading pay-TV operator Foxtel has gone over-the-top to the Xbox 360 as part of its multiscreen strategy.
More broadly, Quickflix's approach to Samsung devices provides an interesting opportunity to re-examine how traditional pay-TV operators think about the Android platform.
Across all manufacturers of Android handsets and tablets, devices are segmented by the version of the operating system they run, and the specifications of each device - in terms of processing power, screen size and resolution and chipsets. Typically, this segmentation means that unless specifically coded to do so, any given application cannot operate across the Android installed base in its entirety.
Quickflix, by offering the WatchNow application for handsets and tablets through Samsung's proprietary application store, has further restricted the population of Android devices which can potentially access the service. Nor is Quickflix alone in pursuing this type of strategy. In Italy, Sky Italia's Sky Go application - where Android is concerned - is only downloadable from, and thus accessible on, Samsung Android devices. In the UK, Sky's announced extension of Sky Go to the Android platform will, at launch, be restricted to Samsung devices, as well as HTC handsets.
On balance, it is unlikely that the majority of forthcoming, pay-TV operator multiscreen deployments on Android will eschew Google's Android Market. Samsung's application store (which runs across its range of bada and Android smartphones and IETVs) has generally struggled for traction compared with Android Market. In March 2011, Samsung reported that its store had served 100m downloads across all bada, Android and TV devices - at the same time IHS Screen Digest estimates that Google's Android Market had served around 4bn downloads to Android smartphones and tablets. The decision to launch on Samsung's own store is a boost for the Korean manufacturer as it provides a level of differentiation in the increasingly crowded Android ecosystem. However, to reach as wide a market as possible, operators will also need to address other mobile devices either via Google's Android Market, or direct-to-consumer channels.
Nonetheless, it is interesting to watch Samsung, via Android and potentially its bada OS in the near future, present itself to multiscreen operators as a platform in its own right.