Prior to 2014, Australians wanting to stream their favourite movies and TV shows online had no legal option but to buy them outright from the likes of iTunes, with the only other service being a subscription to Foxtel. Meanwhile we watched the US basking in the streaming glory of Netflix and Hulu Plus.
A growing number of Aussies used a VPN connection to subscribe to these services in the US, with some estimates stating Netflix already had 200,000 customers in Australia even before Netflix Australia was launched in March 2015! This resulted in a crackdown on ‘geo-dodging’ Aussies from Netflix.
Netflix has now well and truly become part of the furniture in Australia and the nation’s big TV networks have responded with improved content and value of their own. So, who are the heavy hitters competing in the major leagues of Australian streaming? We’ve compiled a run-down so you can choose for yourself (no VPN required!).
Foxtel evolves with Presto
Foxtel is the old hand in this game, having been an extremely popular cable television service since 1995. While it’s not a streaming service like the other names on this list, it’s definitely the name to beat here. After doubts over its ability to remain competitive with new streaming services, it slashed its basic prices in half in 2015, from $50 to $25 per month, and has reported an increase in subscribers as a result. According to Business Insider, Foxtel’s total subscriber count rose from 2.6 million to 2.9 million, and revenues have increased as a result.
While the offerings from Stan, Presto and Netflix make for compelling popcorn theatre, neither service offers anything like Foxtel’s sports packages – and of course Game of Thrones. Australia is a huge Game of Thrones pirating-loving nation,
Foxtel Go ensures Foxtel remains a prominent player in the game as people now want their content available on more than just their TV. But to compete in an increasingly competitive market, the company has evolved its movie and TV offerings with Presto, which includes ‘all you can eat’ TV, and not just films.
A now-joint venture between Foxtel and the Seven Network, Presto is a television and film streaming service that was launched in March 2014, perhaps in anticipation of Netflix’s arrival. It offers three plans, television or movie plans for $9.99 per month each, or a combined plan for $14.99 a month, all in high definition. Along with an already impressive movie range, it also carries several popular shows from the US’s HBO and Showtime. Presto’s most prominent TV shows are titles such as Mad Men, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation and The Walking Dead. It also offers a large collection of Blockbuster movies, and you can read our complete list of Presto content to see if anything in their catalogue strikes your fancy.
Despite the predictions of many that Netflix’s Australian arrival would spell the end for Foxtel, it has proven everyone wrong and continues to do strong business. This is seemingly due to lowering its prices and acquiring a streaming service to compete with the US giant.
Stan: The ‘Aussie’ Netflix
The biggest Australian competitor to Netflix in terms of video-streaming, Stan is a joint venture between Nine Entertainment Co. and Fairfax Media. It offers content from many prominent TV channels and companies, and its big-ticket item is exclusive rights to the immensely popular Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul. Stan also has exclusive rights to Breaking Bad itself, and for many these two shows are enough to convince them to sign up. Australia recorded the highest rates of piracy of Breaking Bad in the world, so if you like or would like to watch these critically acclaimed shows, then Stan might be your best option.
Stan costs $10 per month, one dollar more than Netflix and $5 less than Presto. However, as opposed to the US service, Stan can be used on multiple devices (phones, tablets, etc.) at the $10 flat rate, and this fee includes HD and ultra HD content, whereas other services require you to pay extra for the highest quality. Stan comes with some great ‘out of the box’ content, including the BBC’s Sherlock and FX’s Fargo TV series, as well as the exclusive Aussie made Wolf Creek TV series. Its catalogue also consists of critically acclaimed movies such as the Australian film Mad Max: Fury Road, as well as The Lego Movie, The Wolf of Wall Street and many more. We’ve compiled a complete list of movies and TV shows on Stan to help you determine if Stan is the right one for you.
Despite being the closest pure competitor to Netflix in Australia, Stan still lags behind somewhat in terms of subscribers. While Netflix has approximately 2.7 million, Stan has an estimated 750,000 gross subscribers, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. However, these are quite impressive numbers for a company that was only launched on Australia day in 2015. Given that Netflix was by far the more established brand at the time of launch, it’s not surprising that it picked up subscribers more quickly. Hopefully, for the good of the industry, Stan can continue to gain subscribers in order to better compete with Netflix.
Netflix: The Heavyweight from the US
Arguably the service that’s making News Corp and Fairfax executives sweat, Netflix is a television and film streaming service that launched in Australia in March 2015. Prior to that, many Aussies had to resort to using a VPN connection to get Netflix from the US or European markets.
Since its launch Down Under, Netflix has proven the go-to for many Australians. Its ease of streaming, array of shows and movies, as well as its outstanding in-house productions – such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black – ensure Netflix remains a giant. Netflix is also partnered with Marvel Studios to exclusively release shows like Daredevil. So, comic book fans and superhero buffs rejoice!
Since Netflix has launched in Australia, it has battled to close down the VPN connections to the overseas ‘Netflixes’ which currently have a much broader and varied content library than the Australian one. This has left many Aussies disenchanted with the service, and the Government is now trying to pass legislation to state that it is not illegal to use a VPN to stream. It’s a murky area, and while VPN connections are currently blocked on Netflix, its Australian service is still very competitive.
Netflix has proven the go-to for many Australians, and despite the smaller catalogue compared to the American version, it still has a superb range of TV shows and movies at its disposal. Some of the most popular shows and movies in its catalogue are in-house productions, such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Netflix is also partnered with Marvel Studios to exclusively release shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones, as well as the upcoming Iron Fist. So, comic book fans and superhero buffs rejoice! As of the present day, Netflix has 688 TV shows and 1836 Movies at its disposal, and you can check them all out here.
Netflix starts at $8.99 a month, which:
- beats Foxtel Go’s basic package price of $25,
- beats Presto’s Entertainment (TV + films) price of $14.99,
- beats the $9.99 price tag of Presto’s individual TV and movies plans, and
- beats Stan’s flat rate of $10.
However, the $8.99 package offers streaming only on one screen and in standard definition, which can be problematic for households all watching their own shows. However, $11.99 gets you two screens and high definition, and further, $14.99 allows you to watch on four screens and 4K quality. When you split the costs between two or four people, streaming with Netflix can be quite economical!
Don’t want to pay a thing? Try a catch up service
A different proposition, but worth mentioning, are the various free to air channels offering their content through online catch up services. iView is ABC’s catch-up service, available for free on the ABC website. Recent episodes of certain ABC shows are put on iView so that viewers who missed the latest episode can catch up on it at their leisure. At any given time there’ll be a great host of content form both overseas (think the UK’s BBC shows, like Doctor Who) as well as from our humble shores such as the popular comedy-drama Rake.
Similarly, you can catch up on all your favorite SBS shows, such as big US hits like The Walking Dead and Brooklyn Nine Nine, through its On Demand service for free. SBS also has a great selection of art-house movies and interesting documentaries from both Australia and worldwide. Both iView and On Demand are great free streaming services, however are limited to shows that feature on those channels. They are a great supplement to a paid streaming service, and many people may prefer to run iView or On Demand solely.
What about the Apple TV, or the Google Play store?
There are other services around to rent and purchase your entertainment from, but the two listed above are more online ‘video rental stores’ than proper streaming services. You cannot pay a monthly subscription fee to stream as much content as you want – therein lies the difference.
For example, the Apple TV is a piece of hardware about the size of a CD case (remember those?!). It allows the owner to stream content from various sources, such as Netflix, the iTunes Store, YouTube, Major League Baseball and other participating channels and sources. The Apple TV hardware costs $109 (RRP), and content streamed via Apple TV may be free, or may to be purchased or rented.
Similarly, Google Play is just another online store to rent or buy videos from. It’s easy to access the store from any Android device, on computers, etc. Both offer comprehensive renting options for movies – with some movies having both high and standard definition offerings.
Google also offers an Apple TV competitor – Chromecast. At $59 RRP, Chromecast virtually turns your ‘dumb’ TV into a Smart TV and eliminates the need of a HDMI cable to connect your computer to the TV. It is quite similar to Apple TV, as it allows you to access an online library of both paid and free content. Both Apple TV and Google Chromecast are really quite intuitive, making it convenient to stream to your TV.
With such a wealth of entertainment-enabling streaming systems at our fingertips, it’s no wonder Aussies are glued to their screens – big and small.