Foxtel and Netflix are the two biggest players in Australia’s entertainment subscription market. The battle isn’t just one of competing services, but one of old versus new, and of traditional TV viewing versus video streaming on demand. So, which offers the best bang for your entertainment buck?
The arrival of Netflix in Australia was a game-changing moment in the way we watch and pay for TV content. The US streaming giant quickly generated an army of loyal followers, but Foxtel has also reported an increase in new subscribers following a dramatic change to its business model, allowing customers to sign up on no contract terms, and with the advent of its own streaming services, Foxtel Go and Foxtel Play. The launch of Aussie-grown Stan has also added an extra edge to the fight for your attention, but for now at least, Netflix is very much the standard-bearer for on-demand TV services.
To help retain its dominance of the premium paid TV market in Australia, Foxtel – along with a range of internet service providers like Telstra and TPG – recently appealed to the Federal Court to place a block on torrenting sites used to illegally download movies and shows like Game of Thrones. While Netflix is obviously not a torrent site, it just goes to show how much torrenting and Netflix has ‘disrupted’ the pay TV monopoly that Foxtel has enjoyed for 20-odd years.
So with video streaming having finally arrived in Australia, and Foxtel fighting hard to maintain its previously unchallenged superiority, we thought we’d offer a comparison between the two different methods of delivering entertainment, represented by Foxtel and Netflix. It’s time to find out: what are the major differences between the old guard and the new kid on the block? Who offers the best content and the best value for money?
Netflix Vs Foxtel: Pros and Cons
Before we got into detail about the two services, here’s a quick breakdown of the pros and cons of both.
Who offers the better value?
- Netflix: $8.99 for standard definition, one stream at a time
- Foxtel Play: Lifestyle, Docos or Kids pack available from $10 a month
- Foxtel: Entertainment Pack for $26 a month (with a $125 iQ3 equipment installation fee – minimum initial price is $151)
As it stands, Netflix offers the cheapest base price, though you will be relegated to SD-quality, which seems fine until you realise what HD looks like in comparison. However you’ll also get a one-month free trial to see if you like it. Beyond the base $8.99, you won’t be subject to extra set-up fees or anything of the sort, but even SD Netflix can use around 300MB of data per hour, so it probably won’t hurt to have an unlimited broadband plan if you’re going to be “Netflix and chilling” a lot. You’ll also get the full range of content that Netflix has to offer even with the base price.
- The same can’t be said for Foxtel, however. The cheapest way you can feasibly ‘get Foxtel’ is to pay $10 a month on Foxtel Play for a Lifestyle, Docos or Kids pack.
While the Kids pack may be a cheap way to keep the kids quiet for an hour or two, adults might find that the Lifestyle or Doco are packs sorely lacking in terms of content. Unless you REALLY enjoy Selling Houses Australia or a marathon session of Bondi Rescue, you might find the scope and range of content with these basic packs a little bit poor.
- With Netflix, you get a smattering of movies, shows, docos, and kids’ stuff, though not much will be ‘new release’.
You can rely on Netflix to provide movies and TV shows that are syndicated and re-run around the world, or for its vast array of original content. Really, Netflix is nearly worth it alone for its original content, like Orange is the New Black, Making a Murderer, Riverdale and the like. Netflix’s TV content is stronger than its movie range however, due to many relatively new movies not being available as a result of licensing costs – there’s a reason it’s so affordable.
However, Foxtel’s Entertainment Pack through its traditional pay TV platform opens up your world to a lot more channel options. Expect channels like Fox8 and the Universal Channel, along with National Geographic and Sky News among many others.
- This, however, costs $26 a month, and you’ll also pay a $125 equipment fee, and possibly an extra installation fee to the sum of $100.
This base cost is already by far and away more expensive than Netflix, but you won’t be subject to internet streaming, which could be a plus.
Extra Packs and Costs
One of the other benefits of Netflix is that you don’t pay anything extra to unlock specific content – it’s all available from the get go. Foxtel has a much wider variety of content available, but you do pay for it.
- $46 a month for Drama Combo, including Showcase – the channel Game of Thrones is on
- $55 a month for Sports Combo, which includes Fox Footy and ESPN
- Sports and Drama Combo for $75 a month
- Platinum HD for every pack, with a large selection of them available in HD for $137 a month
While you’d be sadly mistaken for giving up Foxtel for Netflix for your NRL or AFL games, keep in mind that you do have to pay a fair amount for the privilege of getting any extra packs. Currently, Foxtel has a relative stranglehold on the AFL and NRL in Australia, so if you want your dose of footy you’ll have to contend with free-to-air TV, along with Fox Footy and pay a minimum $55 a month for it.
- Is $46 a month for Game of Thrones, or $55 a month for NRL and AFL worth it to you?
Only. You. Can. Decide.
The verdict on value
Compared to Netflix Australia, Foxtel provides far more content, with channels broadcasting 24/7 just like any other TV channel. Having the ability to record your favorite shows is a huge bonus for Foxtel customers as it adds the ‘on demand’ element that makes Netflix so popular. Overall, both seem to offer good value for money, considering what’s on offer and what exactly you’re after. The added bonus of getting Foxtel with no lock-in contract strengthens its value proposition even further, while it’s hard to argue that Netflix for just $8.99 isn’t a good deal. On price alone, Netflix obviously wins out, but in terms of value, that depends on your individual needs.
Who has the best content?
The main difference between the two services is that Netflix places a big emphasis on TV shows, while Foxtel is more focused on providing the latest movies on demand and exclusive live sports.
Netflix is pretty easy to cover here, as there is no live sports to be found, and no sports at all (replay or otherwise). While you may find some interesting sports documentaries, TV rights deals and the like make it prohibitive for Netflix to enter in this segment of pay TV where traditional platforms like Foxtel reign supreme.
Foxtel also has exclusive rights to the most popular leagues in Australia – AFL and NRL. Just recently, Foxtel launched a 24-hour rugby league channel, so if you’re a South Sydney superfan or bonkers for Brisbane Broncos, then Foxtel is obviously the choice here.
Foxtel also has a hold on Super Rugby and European football, as well as NFL and NBA through its partnership with ESPN. Also expect superior coverage of Australia’s international fixtures for rugby, cricket, football and many other sports.
Foxtel’s multiple movie channels show the latest releases as soon as they’re available, and the Foxtel Store allows you to rent movies on demand rather than wait for them to be shown on TV. Netflix, on the other hand, has a large back catalogue of classic, cult and indie movies, but struggles when it comes to new blockbusters. For the next viewing of Flubber or Back to the Future, Netflix is a leader. However, for newer releases, you’ll have to pay to play with Foxtel.
Netflix’s strength lies in the depth and breadth of its TV shows, which include Suits, The Blacklist and Narcos. However, it’s important to note that Netflix Australia’s offerings aren’t identical to the range offered to US customers. Some well-known shows such as Grey’s Anatomy aren’t available in Australia. Additionally, due to the complicated battling ground of TV rights, Netflix loses popular shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad to Stan. So while you won’t get these popular shows on Netflix Australia, you will still get access to the quality in-house productions that Netflix make like Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things to name a couple.
And while it doesn’t boast the same range of quality TV shows as Netflix, Foxtel boasts channels like HBO and Showcase, which are home to popular American shows such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Dexter and True Blood. So for premium, popular shows, Foxtel is the superior choice, however for sheer variety and in-house productions, Netflix reigns supreme.
The verdict on content
For fans of sports, popular shows and new movie releases, Foxtel is a must. However, Netflix’s biggest draw is its original and exclusive TV shows. It’s hard to see past the depth of Foxtel’s content, but really it depends on what sort of content you’re looking for. It’s also worth mentioning that what Foxtel is known for – Game of Thrones, live sports, premium shows – are only available on more expensive channel packs. So to get all the latest and greatest you’ll have to be willing to spend around $50 a month.
Availability in Australia was once the big difference between the two services – but no longer! Until Netflix officially launched down under, the 200,000+ Aussies who subscribed to it did so using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN effectively hides your IP address, allowing it to appear as if it’s from the US, meaning you can sign up. Whilst this process isn’t illegal, it’s certainly something that local providers like Foxtel have tried to discourage. At the end of the day though, you’re still paying for your entertainment, which is a lot better than illegally pirating shows from torrenting sites of which the Federal Court as now blocked.
Now, however, both Netflix and Foxtel can be subscribed to online within a matter of minutes. In Foxtel’s case, it usually takes a few days for the set-top box to be delivered and installed in your home, but once it’s in you’re ready to go. In this respect, Netflix does have the edge on its traditional rival – you can start watching it right after you subscribe, and with the company offering a one-month free trial, you can always change your mind.
Alternatives to Foxtel
If the cost of Foxtel outlined above has put you off of buying Foxtel, there are a few alternatives. Keep in mind, however, that Foxtel offers the biggest convenience as you can just sit down and watch one service while watching the TV normally without worrying about streams and your internet connection.
- Fetch TV – with entertainment packs from $6 a month, plus the Fetch set top box is also a TV guide and personal video recorder. You can also purchase on-demand movies and TV shows through Fetch’s own library, plus stream catch-up TV, Netflix and Stan through the device. Lacks premium channels like HBO, Showcase and NRL/AFL though.
- NRL and AFL Game Passes: NRL is $2.99 a week for every game of the round, while AFL is from $4.99 weekly. Look out for bonus offers if you’re a Telstra customer. Only viewable on streams up to a 7” screen size, with no ability to use ChromeCast or the like.
These two platforms are the closest things you can get to Foxtel, and you can see the limitations they have. For unbridled live NRL and AFL and premium content, you still can’t go past Foxtel, but you can get about 80 per cent of the way there using these two options.
The overall verdict
All in all, deciding between Foxtel and Netflix is like deciding between apples and oranges – they both keep you entertained but in their own special way. So have a think about what you want most from your entertainment service, and be happy that Australia finally has some proper competition with regards to our online media.
- If you place a higher value on live sports and blockbuster movies, then Foxtel might be for you, if you can afford it.
- On the other hand, if you’re more interested in TV shows for a cheap price, then you might want to consider Netflix.
Many Aussies love the two services so much, they now subscribe to both every month, and with no lock-in contracts for either service it means that if you’re not satisfied you can cancel after your month is up with no dramas. We’re calling this one a tie, though it’s undeniable that Foxtel is superior for live TV, sports and premium content, whereas Netflix reigns supreme for cost, in-house productions and variety.