2016 Review of Australian Paid TV Services
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Australians now have an abundance of TV services to choose from, giving us more content than you can shake an older fashioned remote control at. So which is rated highest?
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Canstar Blue research finalised in February 2016, published in March 2016.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Most Satisfied Customers | Netflix
Aussies have their say on paid TV services
It’s been exactly a year since the term ‘subscription video on demand’ entered the mainstream public consciousness. Sure, some Australians had been enjoying the best that Netflix had to offer by flouting the copyright rules and accessing the US library of movies and TV shows for some time, but it wasn’t until the streaming service officially launched Down Under that things really got interesting…
You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in Australia who hasn’t heard of Netflix now, or at least one of its rival services that arrived in the months preceding April 2015. So, now that Netflix has its feet under the table in millions of Australian households, how popular is the streaming service proving, and how does it compare to Stan and Presto, as well as Quickflix and Foxtel?
At Canstar Blue, we decided to gauge the public perception of these paid TV services, to find out if Netflix really was the king of the content castle, or whether another service was in fact winning the battle for our TV screens (or devices). To do that, we asked almost 2,000 Australians adults to rate the subscription service they use across all of the important variables – value for money, range of content, new release availability, ease of sign-up and overall customer satisfaction. This produced a comparative set of ratings, showing how each service was rated by its users.
The results were intriguing, with Foxtel rated best at delivering new content – and an extensive range of TV shows and movies – while Stan performed well in achieving four stars for value for money and overall satisfaction. However, no group was happier than Netflix subscribers, with the content colossus receiving top marks for its easy sign-up process, value for money and overall streaming satisfaction.
The ratings provide an insight into how Australians feel about their paid TV services, but they also paint a picture of very high expectations. Even Netflix – with its unrivalled reputation for preventing a boring evening in front of the TV – fell short of its subscribers’ demands regarding its range of content and new releases. In fact, the availability of new releases is clearly a bugbear for most consumers, which is understandable given the current copyright restrictions faced by streaming services Down Under. Foxtel was rated the highest for delivering new content, yet only scored three stars for value for money and overall satisfaction – along with Presto and Quickflix – so it seems us Aussies are a hard bunch to please.
Let’s take a detailed look at each of these paid TV services and what they currently offer.
Not only does Netflix boast a significant range of TV shows and movies, but it’s also popular for its exclusive ‘Netflix Originals’ including shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Narcos. Netflix is a pioneer in content simplicity, providing its service on a rolling monthly contract which can be cancelled and restarted at any time. It offers a free one month trial when you first register and operates a three-tier pricing system once the trial ends, with each tier offering a different streaming quality and number of streams per household (i.e. how many screens/devices you can watch on at the same time). The tier prices are as follows:
- $8.99 – Allows streaming on one device at a time, at standard quality.
- $11.99 – Allows streaming on two devices at a time and at HD quality.
- $14.99 – Allows streaming on four devices at a time and at Ultra HD quality.
The free month at the start of your subscription is a nice bonus, but keep in mind that, if you don’t plan on continuing through to the paying stage, you will need to cancel your subscription before the 30-day period is up. Otherwise, your credit card will be charged for the next month.
Since its launch, Stan’s major selling point has been that it owns the local rights to Breaking Bad and its spin-off show, Better Call Saul. But it also boasts a number of other hit TV shows, such as Californication and Dexter, plus numerous blockbuster movies, most notably The Hunger Games series, Mad Max Fury Road and The Wolf of Wall Street. Unlike Netflix, Stan comes with just one set price, $10 per month, which allows you to watch in HD quality and from up to three devices at the same time.
Like Netflix, Stan is also a non-contract subscription service which means you can cancel at any time following your first month free trial. And also remember to unsubscribe before the 30 day period is up if you don’t want to continue. Otherwise, you will be charged for the next month.
Presto may lack some of the blockbuster TV shows and movies that you’ll get with Netflix or Stan, but what it takes in quality it makes up for in terms of quantity, with a huge range of content to choose from. Presto currently names its most “bingeworthy” TV shows as Scandal, Mr. Robot, The Affair and True Detective, while must see movies include The Theory of Everything, Fifty Shades of Grey, Pitch Perfect 2 and Paddington. Presto’s movie and TV show content libraries are available to watch through one of three subscription options as follows:
- Presto TV, which offers all TV shows for $9.99 per month.
- Presto Movies, which offers all movies for $9.99 per month.
- Presto Entertainment, which provides access to both its TV and movie content libraries for $14.99 per month.
Presto also offers a one month free trial but remember to unsubscribe before the period is up if you don’t want to start paying for the content.
Quickflix describes itself as “the original movie and TV streaming service” having launched in 2003. It still maintains its original service of delivering DVDs to letterboxes across the country, but it now also allows users to directly stream their favourite content to their smart TVs, games consoles, Blu-ray players, desktops, laptops or smartphones, without the need to wait for the postman to arrive. For home deliveries, Quickflix boasts a content library or more than 40,000 movies and TV shows to rent on either DVD or Blu-ray.
It may be different to its rivals, but Quickflix also comes with no lock-in contract, no postal costs and no late fees. Subscription streaming costs $9.99 per month, providing unlimited access to the Quickflix catalogue, plus you can also purchase a ‘premium pass’ for access to watch new movie releases. For those a little less tech-savvy, the home delivery subscription, with unlimited disc exchanges, costs $12.99 per month.
Foxtel may be a slightly different proposition to the streaming services on this list, but it is nevertheless still competing for the same TV entertainment dollars. One of the broadcaster’s main selling points is its rights to live sporting events, including NRL, AFL and Super Rugby matches, plus Formula 1 and V8 Supercars motor racing championships, A League soccer and international cricket. Foxtel is also the Australian home to a number of hit TV shows – the most notable being Game of Thrones – and brand new movie releases. Foxtel also boasts a number of news, kids, entertainment and lifestyle channels.
Foxtel is currently available with no lock-in contract, with prices varying dependent on the TV packages you wish to subscribe to. Customers are able to ‘build their own’ plans by picking and choosing from its range of entertainment packs, like movies, sports, drama and documentaries, or they can select from a range of TV combos, with prices starting at $25 per month and gradually rising to $70. Foxtel also provides a broadband service and therefore offers bundled plans for internet, phone and TV. Existing customers can also pay extra for Foxtel Play – a service that allows you to stream TV content on the go through various devices.
The state of play
There’s no doubt that the arrival of Netflix and other subscription video on demand services is changing the way Australians watch TV. For some, their television has become more of a device for content streaming than it is for watching traditional free to air TV, while others are benefiting from being able to watch their favourite shows and movies away from their living rooms, or outside their home altogether.
About one in five (22%) households subscribe to more than one paid TV service, our survey found, with adults in their 30s the most likely to do so (31%). And just 16% of respondents said they would like to unsubscribe to a paid TV service, with those aged in their 30s again the most likely (21%). So the majority of consumers are happy to pay for TV content, which raises a big question about the future of free to air television. However, if our customer ratings are an indicator, a lot of people clearly have high expectations and don’t feel that their TV demands are being met, despite the relative low cost of these services.
With streaming services like Netflix costing just $9-15 per month, they are a good bet for households who watch a lot of TV shows and movies, but also those who simply like to have the option there if they need it. At such low costs, you could argue there is a danger that these services are easy to ‘set and forget’ but they are also easy to unsubscribe to if you so wish.
These streaming services also represent a significant threat to Foxtel – Australia’s traditional go-to source of new shows and movies – although it maintains a strong appeal for sports fans in particular and its recent price cut has actually resulted in a major boost to its subscriber base. Our research shows that Foxtel customers (17%) are the least likely paid TV customers to subscribe to more than one service, suggesting most are happy sourcing their TV content in one place. By contrast, 42% of Stan and 39% of Quickflix customers subscribe to an additional paid TV service. For Presto, the number is 29% and Netflix 24%.
When it comes to unsubscribing, we found that customers of Quickflix were the most likely to say they want to unsubscribe to a paid TV service (37%), followed by Stan (31%), Presto (25%), Foxtel (16%) and Netflix (12%).
Australia’s increasing appetite for online video streaming over the last 12 months has resulted in unprecedented pressure on home internet connections and data allowances. As a result, 27% of paid TV subscribers have upgraded their broadband plans since signing up, our survey found. So what internet speeds do you need to steam content at home? As a guide, Netflix offers the following recommendations on download speeds per stream:
- Required broadband connection speed – 0.5 megabits per second.
- Recommended broadband connection speed – 1.5 Megabits per second.
- Recommended for SD quality – 3.0 Megabits per second.
- Recommended for HD quality – 5.0 Megabits per second.
- Recommended for Ultra HD quality – 25 Megabits per second.
Netflix also publishes a monthly league table of Australian internet service providers (ISPs), based on how well their network performs for streaming its content at prime time (i.e. during the evening). At the time of writing, Optus was ranked highest, followed by TPG, iiNet and Exetel. The Netflix factor is presumably one of the reasons why half of households on the National Broadband Network (NBN) are now on unlimited data plans. You can see which NBN providers are living up to the hype with our customer ratings.
Frequently asked questions
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 6,000 Australian consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who currently subscribe to a paid TV service – in this case, 1,944 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.