Stan, Presto and QuickFlix gearing up for Netflix’s March launch

With Netflix standing on the doorstep, competition in Australia’s streaming video space is heating up.

This week, Stan, the $100 million joint play between Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment, reportedly emailed subscribers a deal for Google’s Chromecast – offering the dongle at a $10 discount and including free shipping.

Stan’s been busy elsewhere, too.

Last week the service signed a deal with mobile provider Vodafone that gives the carrier’s customers access to Stan’s content.

“Stan is a fantastic addition to Vodafone’s leading range of premium content,” said CEO Iñaki Berroeta. “The reason we’ve chosen to partner with Stan is simple: We believe it offers Australian customers the best range of local and international TV and movies.”

Even before those two deals, Stan’s been on a roll.

Earlier this month, in its half-year financial results, Fairfax Media said Stan was on its way to signing up 100,000 subscribers by the time Netflix is set to launch in March. That’s just a couple of months after the service launched in late-January.

Stan’s offering a free, 30-day trial, so it’s fair to say the bulk of those signups currently are freebies. Converting them to paying customers may be a bit more tricky, especially once Netflix deploys.

Still, Fairfax says signups are running some three to four months ahead of expectations, and CEO Greg Hywood maintains it will be able to keep on its trial users as paying customers.

Netflix, meanwhile, lands next month with an estimated 200,000 customers already getting its U.S. service via VPN. And, it recently signed a deal with Australian IPTV service Fetch TV that puts it immediate access to 170,000-some customers already used to paying for content, a move that likely provide a market-share bump. Fetch TV also will add Netflix to its service in New Zealand later this year.

“As we surveyed the Australian market, Netflix was impressed by the Fetch TV service, unique business model, and the committed coalition of Telco partners,” said Bill Holmes, Netflix’s head of Biz Dev. “By partnering with Fetch TV, we are making it easy for TV fans and movie lovers to watch Netflix on their televisions.”

Netflix likely will seek a tie in with a mobile carrier – and other pay-TV service providers – as it gets closer to launching.

How will Stan – and other players in the market like Presto and Quickflix – fare when the Big Kahuna, Netflix, arrives?

It’ll be a battle similar to the one taking place in Germany, where a recent report showed Netflix currently in fifth place among SVOD providers… but with a bullet. The company, which launched just five months ago, already is ahead of Watchever, Videoload and Unitymedia, and is within quick striking distance of Google Play, Maxdome and iTunes. Only Amazon Prime Instant Video (the former LoveFilms) has a significant lead.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has, in recent earnings calls, said the company doesn’t believe it has to be the market leader to be successful… it just wants to be near the top.

O.K., so who’ll be No. 2 in Australia a year from now?

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn