With online streaming finally making its way to Australia, The Newsroom weighs up the options.
Netflix, the US service that kicked off the home streaming revolution, made its long awaited arrival in Australia in late March and has already racked up over 200,000 subscribers. Its arrival has sparked a war between streaming services, all vying for a slice of the rapidly growing online home movie and TV market. Netflix may be the most well known option, but Australian services Stan, Presto, and Quickflix are stepping up to give it a run for its money. We take a closer look at your options so you can figure out which service is right for you.
Cost: $8.99 a month for Basic, $11.99 a month for Standard, $14.99 a month for Premium.
Netflix was already a household name before it was legally available, so it’s without a doubt the most well known of the streaming options. Due to a myriad of licensing and content issues, our version of Netflix has much less content than its American counterpart, with the Australian library stocking around 1100 titles. a poor comparison to the US’ 7200.
However, the content selection only has a few major omissions, with popular new TV shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black being available along with old favourites like House, Lost, and even all 18 series of Power Rangers to satiate even the most dedicated viewer. Netflix is available to use on a wide range of computers, smartphones, smart TVs, Blu-Ray players, gaming consoles like the PS4 and Xbox One, and wireless media players like Apple TV, and Google Chromecast. How many of them you’ll be able to use at the same time depends on your Netflix subscription, but you’ll be able to have them all registered to the same account at the same time.
Netflix uses varied bitrate streaming, meaning that the quality of the video will automatically adjust depending on your current internet speeds. The connections are unmetered for Optus and iiNet customers, which is good news considering the high amount of bandwidth that Netflix uses; approximately 3gb an hour for high definition streaming. This might be bad news for Telstra customers, but with the ISP recently increasing their data caps it’s definitely manageable to use Netflix regularly without going over your download limit.
Pros: New Netflix exclusive shows; well-rounded library; supports HD and 4k streaming, unmetered with iiNet or Optus
Cons: Smaller library than the US; some areas might not have speeds that can provide a HD stream
Cost: $9.99 a month
The oddly named Stan is Channel 9/Fairfax’s answer to Netflix, and as of now it is the most serious competitor in the streaming game. Heavily marketed with a barrage of advertising and boasting deals with Sony and AMC, the streaming service launched early on the 26th of January to try and get ahead of the competition. For now, it’s the only place where you can, legally at least, watch hit Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, the third season of British mystery series Sherlock, and the sixth season of cult favourite Community.
Apart from these big name additions to its library, Stan also has an exclusive deal with CBS, meaning that both Star Trek: The Original Series and Star Trek: The Next Generation will be available, along with the whole range of CSI series, yes, including CSI Miami. Stan is on par with Netflix in terms of usability, with a wide variety of devices able to access the service, but noticeably no apps for the Xbox One, PS4, or Apple TV.
Stan lets you register up to six devices on one account and impressively lets you stream from three simultaneously (so if you don’t want to watch what your flatmate wants to, you can watch something else on your laptop in your room without having to get your own account.) Like Netflix, Stan uses varied bitrate streaming, but, according to my own experience and online user reports, the service is more temperamental than Netflix and tends to fluctuate in quality much more often. Stan can stream content in HD, but as of now it doesn’t have any deals with ISPs, meaning that the sizeable internet usage will come right out of your monthly allowance.
Pros: Better Call Saul; Community; studio deals in place for even more content to be available; HD streaming
Cons: no deals with ISPs; some TV shows are incomplete
Cost: $10 a month for Movies, $10 a month for TV, $15 a month for both
Presto was originally a movie only subscription service that launched in mid 2014 to compete with Quickflix, but quickly changed to incorporate TV shows into its library, and it now dominates the streaming market in terms of content. With Presto being partially owned by Foxtel, it’s privy to a lot of the pay TV services content deals with studios and distributors, so Presto gets many new movies and TV shows long before they’re broadcast elsewhere.
Although it holds a deal with HBO for its popular content like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, and Deadwoood, and even though it’s financed by Foxtel, Presto doesn’t currently have HBO’s biggest series Game of Thrones in its library, nor have they announced any plans for its addition. It’s strange not to include such a massive selling point in a field with so much competition, but it could be a holdout so people don’t immediately abandon their Foxtel subscriptions in favour of Presto.
Its biggest blunder is the total lack of HD content; all the movies and TV shows on Presto are presented in compressed SD, which, while better for your bandwidth usage, isn’t going to hold up in quality on any large screen. Presto also doesn’t support Smart TVs, Apple TV, or the Xbox One or PS4, which again is strange considering their competition. Overall, Presto sells you on its huge content library and connection with Foxtel, which could mean some big additions in time.
Pros: Partnered with Telstra; huge content library
Cons: No HD option; limited devices
Cost: $10 a month, Pay-Per-View titles cost extra
The oldest of the Australian streaming services, Quickflix dates back to 2003, where it began as a DVD rental service, before adding online streaming to its arsenal in 2011. Showing its age, Quickflix has a myriad of technical and content problems, which make it a much less serious competitor to Netflix, Stan, or Presto. Despite deals with HBO and the BBC for some of both’s most well known shows, it doesn’t have any exclusives to give it an edge over the competition, and with Quickflix announcing their financial woes it’s unlikely that they’ll make any big investments in the near future
Quickflix is available on a lot of platforms, but the apps show their age. In most situations, they’re clunky and slow, and it’s quite difficult to navigate through their selection of content, and with the video playback being in the poor condition that it is, Quickflix will definitely need to up its game if it wants to truly compete with the others in its field. Still, it’s the only service that offers DVD and Blu-Ray rental, so it has that going for it, which is nice.
Pros: Solid library; HD streaming; DVD and Blu-Ray rental
Cons: No ISP Deals; HD content on computers is often Pay-Per-View
Each service excels in its own right. When it comes to ease of use and user friendliness, Netflix’s clean and functional user interface is a head above the rest. But content is less of a clear cut issue; Netflix may have House of Cards, but Stan has Better Call Saul and Presto has a much more up to date movie library than either. If you’re looking for new TV, Stan is probably your best bet, and for movies it’s either Netflix for quality or Presto for quantity. In any case, the content library is the main selling point for any streaming service, so check carefully to see if your favourite shows are available before you sign up. – Joseph Papandrea