Opinion: Quick, Quickflix: It's time to give yourself the flick

For the past six months, Australia has been bathing in a luxurious jacuzzi of video on demand services.

Perfectly warm Netflix water, refreshingly soothing Stan bubbles and a cold glass of Presto sparkling to set the atmosphere.

But hidden in the water, just below the surface, is the decomposing remains of Australia’s first legitimate streaming service: Quickflix.

While the stench is yet to really hit our nostrils, it’s still well past time for the pioneering service to drag its corpse out of the hot tub before it ruins the experience for everyone.

Hot Tub Time Machine

It wasn’t always this way though. Back in 2011, Quickflix was our biggest hope for a local version of Netflix. From the name to the DVD mail rental approach, Quickflix promised a local version of the impressive streaming service Netflix was delivering in the US.

For $15 a month, you could get unlimited movie streaming on the service. Naturally at launch, the selection of movies wasn’t huge (or great), but the fledgling company promised massive growth.

And the promise improved a few months later when HBO – the US network behind stellar hits like The Sopranos and Curb your Enthusiasm – invested $10 million in Quickflix shortly after signing a distribution deal.

But despite having apps on a wide range of platforms, plus some of the most impressive shows available for streaming, Quickflix never really took off.

There are probably many reasons for this, but for me it comes down to three key problems with the platform. Firstly, streaming quality was average, especially on larger TVs. When a program was available in HD, it wasn’t immediately obvious, and it could only be accessed on certain platforms.

The second big challenge was the user interface, which dated quickly and never quite reached the refined ease of use that saw people flock to Netflix for.

But finally, the most important thing holding back Quickflix was its content selection. When the streaming platform first launched, the goal was 1,000 movies. When I reviewed the platform for techradar back in February, there were only 485 movies and 413 TV series, many of which would be considered average quality, while even the decent stuff was old.

The thin red line

When HBO bought a chunk of Quickflix stock, things looked promising for the fledgling streaming service. But less than two years later, the US giant sold its stock to Channel 9, which admitted the buy was “opportunistic”.

The fact is that since 2012, the company has been bleeding money. The 2012/13 financial year saw a loss of $6.4 million which jumped to a $10.1 million loss in 2013/14.

In the first half of 2014/15, the company continued to slide, posting a loss of $8.6 million in the first six months – before Stan or Netflix even entered the Australian market.

The numbers are only half of this tale of woe. Also littering the Quickflix Google News search results for the past couple of years are story after story of false starts and failed initiatives.

Following HBO’s share sale, the company’s plea to subscribers to buy shares was a somewhat obvious act of desperation. After a plan to raise $5.7 million in cash from investors only managed to raise $650,000, or 11 percent of its target, Quickflix’s situation seemed somewhat dire.

But things got worse. After a trading halt to announce a reseller agreement with Presto, turning Quickflix into a platform for a newer, better streaming offering, things looked up for the company.

However, that promising step forward lasted less than three months, when Quickflix went into another trading halt to announce the deal had fallen through.

To mitigate the disappointment, Quickflix announced a distribution deal with an unnamed Chinese firm, a strategy that lasted a few weeks before being canned.

Now, Quickflix is in a holding pattern, trying to restructure its business and renegotiate contracts to work out a way to make money. Well, that and try and persuade people not to update to iOS 9 because they weren’t able to update their iOS app in time, that is.

Ultimately, Quickflix is doomed.

Money for nothing

The saddest thing about the closure of Ezyflix.TV last month was the fact that nobody cared. While Ezyflix was a rental service like iTunes more than a streamer like Netflix, its closure went largely unremarked in the Australian technology scene.

(It’s worth noting that Quickflix here is trying to play both the streaming and the premium rental/purchase game).

Here was a service that actually pioneered UltraViolet in Australia. Admittedly, UltraViolet is littered with issues, but EzyFlix tried to push the envelope, launching a disc to digital service, and challenging streamers like Stan by offering the first season of Better Call Saul to own for $10.

But in the end, the realities of the market proved too much and the platform just ended. No build up, no formal press announcement, no hand-wringing from a stressed out CEO… just a service that no longer existed.

It’s unlikely Quickflix could pursue the same end, given its listing on the stock exchange and still-marginally-successful DVD rental business.

But the fact remains that the company has no hope of succeeding in the streaming market, and should stop trying.

The overwhelming consensus within the industry is that the Australian market support more than a couple of streaming services. A combination of our small population size, our average internet speeds and the challenge of content exclusivity will ultimately result in our current glut of services being whittled down, one by one.

With that in mind, Quickflix should be the first to go. But rather than reach a point where the company doesn’t have a choice, it should end its attempts at streaming with its head held high.

Admittedly, Channel Nine’s shares in the company could make that troublesome – the whole “opportunistic” part of the HBO share buyout came from the clauses which guaranteed the TV network a $10.5 million payout in case of a “liquidation event” for Quickflix. That includes everything from takeovers to mergers and a disposal of assets.

The question now is whether that payout is going to hold back the inevitable bleeding of money Quickflix has already experienced? When the company announces its final numbers for the 2014/15 financial year, is it going to come anywhere near a profit? Hell, will it come close to being less than a $10.5 million annual loss?

I’m guessing no.

So quick, Quickflix. It’s time to drag yourself out of the jacuzzi and let us enjoy the services that are not just giving us what we want, but improving with every passing month.

It’s time to give yourself the flick.