A TV streaming revolution has come to Australia. For the first time, viewers have access to multiple streaming services, as well as Foxtel and free-to-air channels.
Late March will see the arrival of Netflix, the US streaming giant, which is expected to be a game changer.
In anticipation of Netflix, several Australian media companies have started their own services – call it a pre-emptive strike – with Foxtel and the Seven Network joining forces to create Presto, and the Nine Network and Fairfax Media partnering up for Stan.
The New Daily has had extensive coverage of the changing landscape. Ahead of the arrival of Netflix Australia on March 31, we decided to test drive Stan, Presto and Quickflix, a local streaming service with a growing reputation.
Here is our verdict. We name the pick of the existing crop below.
Reviewer: Patrick Elligett, Director of News
Package: Quickflix basic package – streaming only
If you can download an app, you can master Quickflix. There’s a long list of supported devices, so chances are most households will have the tools available to conjure up their movie of choice without too much hassle. But unless your TV is one of the four brands supported by the service (Sony Bravia, LG Smart, Panasonic, Samsung Smart), it might take some tinkering to get the images onto the biggest screen in the house.
The biggest drawback here is that sometimes you have to wade through a page or more of options to find what you’re looking for – but that’s a good problem to have. If you know what you’re looking for, the search function should take you straight to the desired location.
All the shows your workmates are talking about around the water cooler are available, without any notable exceptions worth mentioning. Some of them aren’t available to stream, but Quickflix will send you the DVDs if you’re willing to fork out a bit of extra dough. There are plenty of classics on back catalogue too.
Movies are similarly well catered for, but you might find yourself ordering DVDs – rather than streaming – a bit more often when it comes to new releases. Some of the big new release films, Gone Girl for example, aren’t available for streaming on Quickflix, despite being available on other content services.
In a word: crisp. You’re not going to get Blu-ray quality from a streaming service, at least not yet, but Quickflix is approaching that benchmark.
Works well across multiple platforms. We’ve tried this on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phone and tablet, Xbox and Chromecast to TV.
There’s always a catch. The basic streaming package is $10 but you’ll have to pay extra to watch anything considered premium. Game of Thrones season one, released in 2011, for example, is considered premium and will cost you about $29 for the season. If you want to add DVD delivery to your service, subscription packages range up to $37 a month.
Quickflix gets a B. Quickflix has become a feature of this reviewer’s household, one which he is increasingly reluctant to relinquish. Yes, it’s expensive, but Quickflix compares favourably to other subscription television and streaming services.
Best TV: The Walking Dead, The Newsroom, Suits, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire. Classic pick: Red Dwarf
Best Movies: The Skeleton Twins, Twelve Years a Slave, The Babadook, Fury, Dallas Buyers Club. Classic pick: Dr Strangelove
Reviewer: Antonia Acott, Entertainment Editor
Package: Presto’s premium movie and TV package
Presto was easy to login to on a PC and download onto this user’s iPad, but it does not support Apple’s Airplay, and our household doesn’t have a Chromecast, so it was strictly desktop watching here.
Very easy to navigate. The user can search by category, title, actor, and as the content is so limited it’s quick to see what’s available. There are also specialty genres like ‘Girls Night In’ and ‘Superhero Smackdown!’
I was hoping this would complement our Foxtel subscription. Unfortunately, the TV series available were disappointing at best, with no big-ticket items, aside from the first three seasons of Boardwalk Empire and two of the six seasons of The Good Wife. There was a lot of Seven content, which, frankly, we had no use for. The classic TV on offer was also slim pickings.
I was aware that Foxtel’s entire back catalogue of films wasn’t available but I didn’t expect such a B-grade selection of films. New releases were limited and there were also very few classic films. Of all the categories, drama and romance were the strongest. For the children there is a huge Disney movie collection, which this user thought was particularly good.
On the PC and iPad, Presto had good screen quality but it certainly wasn’t flash. Being a family, we had most use for Presto on our home television but when we tried to use Airplay, while it came up on the TV screen, the visual quality was terrible and the film skipped from start to finish. I assume a Chromecast would be a better fit for this streaming service.
Presto is available on PC, iPad and Android devices. There is no iPhone compatibility, which was frustrating because I prefer to use the iPhone over an iPad. Checking out the Google Play app led me to a stream of negative comments about the lack of casting to the TV and use with other devices.
This user was trialling the premium entertainment package, which gave me access to all the movies and TV available on the service at a cost of $14.99 a month. It’s cheap but didn’t compare to Foxtel, even without subscribing to the film package.
I am giving Presto a D. It has a lot of work to do if it is to be a viable and good value option. Yes, it’s affordable, but there just wasn’t the bang for this user’s buck. TV and movie selections were both disappointing.
Best TV: The Good Wife, The Devil’s Playground, Nurse Jackie, Boardwalk Empire Classic pick: The Wire
Best film: The Spectacular Now, Dallas Buyers Club, In A World, The Normal Heart Classic pick: The Big Lebowski
Reviewer: Mark Gambino,TV and tech expert
Package: Standard package
Throwing $10 at Stan is the easiest thing you’ll ever do. Set-up and activation is handled in a few mouse clicks, and will have you surfing a large catalogue of movies and TV in no time.
There are only so many ways to layout a large amount of content without confusion stymying the equation. Stan is simple and clean. Movie and TV sections are rounded up by genre, type or specialty, such as ‘Groundbreaking Comedies’, ‘Revealing Documentaries’, a 007 section, Tweens and content ‘From the Brits’. You can also search for titles, names and genres, but the results can be a little random.
Stan feels a lot like Pay TV. There’s a lot of content: a decent share of it new release or exclusive, but the majority is old. You get the feeling this large back catalogue is content that Nine Entertainment owns the rights to, but doesn’t want to blow the airtime on. Users want a vast library to delve into, and this is what Stan offers. Of note, Stan secured first-run rights to Breaking Bad spin-off prequel, Better Call Saul.
Once again, there is some good recent release material here (The Wolf of Wall Street, August: Osage County, Barefoot and more), but the lion’s share is old content. There is a great kid’s section, with a large range of old and newer movies.
When it works, the quality of Stan is great. HD content looks crisp and clean … when it works.
Stan feels primarily focused on PC use – desktop or laptop – owing to the fact that the mobile app is frustratingly buggy. Available for Android and iOS, it can be sluggish at best and downright unresponsive at worst. When used in conjunction with Apple TV or Chromecast, this reviewer did not once experience a full stream without a TV show or movie stalling or crashing outright.
On the face of it, at $10 per month Stan is good value for what you get. However, there are other services accessible for the same amount of money, which are more stable and offer a greater range of content.
Stan gets a C. After almost a month using Stan, the experience has been quite mixed. It’s a bargain considering the stellar first-run TV on offer, but the technical glitches overshadow what could be a real contender in a market offering more stable alternatives.
Best TV: Better Call Saul, Transparent, Gallipoli, Moone Boy, Luther Classic pick: Twin Peaks
Best film: The Wolf of Wall Street, Broken Flowers, Skyfall, Red Dog, The Hurt Locker Classic pick: Annie Hall
And the winner is …
Quickflix was the victor, comfortably.
But that decision comes with a big asterisk. Netflix is due soon and will radically change the home entertainment landscape. It will be interesting to see how the locals stack up when the US streaming giant lands.