Canstar Blue reviews Australian paid TV services Netflix, Stan, Fetch TV, BigPond Movies and Foxtel based on their range of shows and movies, new release availability, ease of sign up, value for money and overall customer satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
If a week is a long time in politics, then two years is like a lifetime when it comes to pay TV and content streaming services in Australia. Cast your minds back to early 2015 when Foxtel was the only subscription TV service of note, offering access to a wide range of TV shows and movies to tempt you to shell out hundreds of dollars a year, or even thousands depending on your chosen package. And you likely had to agree to a 12 month contract! However, the entire TV landscape was to change with the arrival of Netflix and Australia’s own home grown streaming services in the following months, leaving us with more paid TV options than ever before. We may still play second fiddle to the US when it comes to the availability of certain TV shows, but we’ve come a long way!
So, two years on from the arrival of Netflix, what pay TV and content streaming services do we now have access to – and which are worthy of your ongoing commitment? For the second time, Canstar Blue has asked thousands of Aussies to review the subscription services they pay for, to determine which are deemed to offer the best range of TV shows and movies and availability of new releases, as well as which have the easiest sign up process, offer the best value for money, and deliver the most compelling overall viewing experience.
As you can see from the ratings table above, Netflix was the only subscription service to receive a five-star review for overall customer satisfaction – for the second year in a row. In fact, it was the only pay TV or streaming service to record five stars in any area, also praised for its ease of sign-up, range of content and value for money.
However, it’s perhaps quite telling that even Netflix fell short of Aussie expectations in terms of new releases, rating four stars in this area, along with BigPond Movies. But overall BigPond and Foxtel rated just three stars apiece, with Stan and Fetch TV achieving four-star reviews.
So, what do these services have to offer? Let’s get an overview of each to help you determine whether or not they are worth your time and money.
Launched Down Under in April 2015, Netflix pretty much filled a void in Australian pay TV and officially delivered much of what many Aussies had already been viewing through the use of a VPN and Netflix US subscription for some time. Nowadays we get access to the same awesome Netflix Originals such as Orange is the New Black, Making a Murderer, House of Cards, Stranger Things, Riverdale and a litany of others. Beyond that there’s also a large range of older movies in the collection, along with some interesting documentaries and classic shows like Mad Men. Netflix is always changing its library and adding new content, so you’re never left hanging for too long without new shows to watch. While Netflix is hard to beat for TV shows, it does lack somewhat in the movie department, often struggling to keep up with new releases.
While this can add up, if you share the cost with friends or housemates, it can work out to be incredibly cheap – much cheaper than some other pay TV options. But it’s only good value if you’re making use of the service, of course.
You can subscribe to Netflix directly through the Netflix Australia website, first benefiting from a free trial before you start to be billed every month. Be aware that you will be billed unless you cancel the trial beforehand. Some internet providers also offer free subscriptions with new plan offers from time to time. Telstra and Optus have been known to do this. Some plans allow you to stream Netflix without using your own data allowance, which is very helpful for households without unlimited data plans.
As a direct competitor and Australia’s own answer to Netflix, Stan was also launched around the same time as Netflix and is a joint venture between Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment Co. Well prepared to seriously challenge the Netflix juggernaut from the get-go, Stan holds the rights to several shows that Netflix US has, but Netflix AU does not. For example, expect to find popular shows such as Seinfeld, Friends, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul on Stan. You can also find a great range of Aussie shows such as Underbelly, and Aussie movies like Crocodile Dundee on Stan. You’ll also find various American TV shows from the Showtime channel, plus there’s a strong BBC presence with most of Louis Theroux’s documentaries, for example, among several other revealing documentaries and shows.
Stan starts at $10 for one stream, $12 for three streams and up to $15 for four streams. Overall this is cheaper than the equivalent of what Netflix has to offer. With Stan you also get a free trial before you start to be billed, and like Netflix there are no lock-in contracts. Stan shines through with its straightforward pricing policy.
Like Netflix, the best option is to go straight to the source and buy a subscription through the Stan website. You can watch on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, LG, Samsung, Sony or Hisense Smart TVs, and through Apple TV among other things. Both Telstra and Optus have been known to offer free Stan subscriptions as part of their premium broadband packages starting at around $80 a month.
As a bit of an alternative type of streaming service to Netflix and Stan, Fetch is both a set top box/PVR and a streaming video on demand (SVOD) service. The Fetch device conveniently turns your TV into a home entertainment hub, and with a click of the remote you can stream Netflix and Stan (you must have a subscription), catch up on TV with ABC iview and the like, as well as watch pay TV channels like ESPN and National Geographic. These TV channels are subscription only, and while catch up TV is free, to get the most out of Fetch you’ll probably want to buy one of its entertainment packs. While Fetch’s packs lack Aussie sport such as NRL and AFL, you can watch American sports. Fetch also has its own content library, with numerous movies and TV shows available to purchase. You also receive 30 free movies a month to watch at your leisure.
Fetch’s set top boxes retail for $149 and $399 for the Mini and Mighty players respectively. The main difference with the Mighty player is that you can record live TV with its 1TB of disk space.
These packs are of course optional and you can cancel them at any time. If you’re happy with just your Netflix and Stan and catch up TV accounts, then Fetch’s device is an easy way to get one-click access to all of them. This is instead of having to contend with fiddly smart TV apps and using computer HDMI cords to hook up to your TV.
You can purchase the Mini and Mighty players outright at retailers like JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman, but Fetch has said that the majority of its customers come from the resale of its boxes through broadband providers. As it stands, Optus, iiNet, Dodo and iPrimus all offer rebranded Fetch boxes with the option of buying the various entertainment channel packs through there. With most providers, you can get yourself a Fetch player from around an extra $5-$10 a month on any existing broadband plan, while Optus Fetch is available on plans over $80. With Optus, you’ll also get a subscription to Optus Sport, which has exclusive rights to the English Premier League. What’s more is that these providers offer to stream Fetch services data-free.
As part of the Telstra empire, BigPond Movies is a pay-per-view SVOD service, and you don’t need to be a Telstra customer to use it! With BigPond Movies, you can buy or rent the latest movies and TV shows, such as Hacksaw Ridge, Moana and Star Wars Rogue One among many others. As for TV shows, you can stream various shows such as Homeland, Modern Family, the Walking Dead, Brooklyn Nine Nine and Grey’s Anatomy, among countless others. What’s more is you can buy BigPond Movies vouchers, which could make great gifts for loved ones. BigPond claims to update the list of shows and movies on offer regularly, with new releases every week.
Signing up to BigPond Movies is free, but the cost comes from buying and renting movies and TV shows. It’s like going down to JB Hi Fi to buy a DVD, but you own the download – not a disc. Star Wars Rogue One, for example, is about $20 to download and keep, while a new episode of Grey’s Anatomy is about $3 to buy, with a season pass about $45. While the promise is there to ‘only pay for what you use’, the fact is that, if you watch lots, expect to pay a lot.
You can sign up and stream BigPond Movies through the website, and can then subsequently stream using Telstra TV, your smartphone or computer. Various new Smart TVs are also directly compatible. For convenience, it’s pretty tough to beat Telstra TV, which is basically a rebranded Roku player that also delivers access to various other streaming services available in Australia. With a few remote clicks you can be well on your way to owning the next greatest blockbuster movie.
Ah good old Foxtel – it changed the Australian landscape forever in the 1990s and continues to keep us fixated with some top US shows and various sports channels. Foxtel is the go-to source for Game of Thrones, as well as HBO shows like The Night Of and Boardwalk Empire. Foxtel also has exclusive rights to several NRL and AFL games a week, with all games aired live and offered as an alternative to free to air TV coverage. The American leagues are also available through the ESPN affiliation, as well as various European soccer leagues. If Foxtel has the deeds to a sport or show you like, you’re probably going to sign up. Quality sports coverage is where Foxtel still has the edge over streaming sites like Netflix and Stan.
However, Foxtel is definitely on the ball when it comes to on-demand content, too. Foxtel has introduced Foxtel Go and Foxtel Play to keep up with consumer demand. Foxtel Go is basically an app for customers to stream shows on the go, while Foxtel Play is a subscription streaming service available for non-Foxtel customers, too.
Foxtel is arguably the most premium pay TV service available in Australia, which is reflected by its prices. Its channel packs start at about $26 a month, plus an installation/equipment fee. For this $26 you’ll get the basic entertainment pack with channels including Fox8 and TV Hits, while the sports and drama packs start at around $50 a month, with the Platinum HD pack (including all packs in HD) costing $137 a month. Foxtel Play starts at $10 a month but you’re relegated to streaming only, and content at this price is quite limited.
You can subscribe directly through Foxtel, or sign up via a few Telstra broadband plans, which have Foxtel packages included. Prices start at about $90 a month for these broadband bundles. With Foxtel Play, you can purchase directly through the Foxtel site and watch on your Telstra TV device, compatible Smart TV, or computer as well as your Xbox One or PS3 or 4. You’ll get a free trial for your trouble.
In addition to those mentioned, there are some other content streaming services available in Australia, most notably:
If you’re more into Australian content than the latest TV shows and movies from the US, then OzFlix may be worth a look. This is a streaming service dedicated to Aussie talent, and allows viewers to rent all the classics – from Wolf Creek to Red Dog – as well as modern blockbusters like Mad Max Fury Road and The Babadook, for just $3.79 each.
Or if you’re keen to see a range of TV shows and movies from across the globe, Amazon Prime Video has recently added Australia to its list of eligible countries. It seems keen to follow in the footsteps of Netflix with a range of exclusive ‘Originals’ but is currently best known as the only place to watch The Grand Tour, featuring former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson and friends.
Well, as many as you like. The great thing about subscription video on demand is that you have the power to watch and go as you please. If you don’t like a service, you can just cancel it. Most also offer a free trial before you start paying, so you will quickly get an idea of whether or not it is worth the money, and even Foxtel now offers no lock-in contract terms.
Our survey found that almost one in four households (23%) are signed up to two or more pay TV or streaming services, with six out of ten respondents (60%) saying they now spend more time watching these services than traditional free to air television. The survey also found Aussies are spending an average of $50 a month on their pay TV or streaming services. But despite the cost, it seems free to air TV has some serious work to do to keep pace with the way we watch… TV!
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who subscribe to a paid TV or video streaming service and pay the bills – in this case, 2,326 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.
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