Given the current state of free to air Australian and the proliferation of ads it’s no wonder more and more Australians are turning to streaming TV and TV on demand. The arrival of Netflix in Australia has definitely signaled a groundswell of change with more and more people choosing to watch TV online and with Stan and Presto also trying to corner the streaming on demand market (not to mention the regular channel’s own catch up services) it’s time to take a look at just what these services have to offer.
Despite only launching in Australia on 24 March Netflix is probably already the most well known brand down under when it comes to SVOD (aka streaming video on demand) helped by the huge success of it’s home produced shows such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black as well as the fact that many Australians had sampled the service via the use of VPNS (Virtual Private Networks).
At launch Netflix’s Australian arm offered just over a 1000 different titles (as opposed to 7000 currently available in the US and other territories such as the UK) and is a range of reasonably recent big name movies, middle of the road and some dodgy B-movies. There is also a large collection of TV series (all pretty recent with lots to recommend here from UK shows like Call The Midwife and crime drama The Fall to recent Netflix originals such as Daredevil, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Marco Polo as well as some Australian content such as Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. There is also a fairly substantial collection of kid friendly content from movies to series.
Like most of the streaming services Netflix titles can be watched on any internet enabled device but is really at it’s best on a large screen Smart TV. One massive positive we have found with the service so far is how little drop-out you get in comparison to other services (Foxtel’s play is a particular pain when it comes to watching live sport for example). Netflix titles have a slight pre-load time and if your broadband speed drops below a certain level then you don’t suffer drop out rather instead you might notice a slight lessening in the picture quality infinitely preferable to the loading circle of doom.
So far the only downside has possibly been feeling a little short changed at the number of titles on offer compared to elsewhere but that is symptomatic about how we feel Australia is treated as a whole whether that be books, music or whatever. At the end of the day the range is growing and there is more than enough quality to keep you going for months on end.
Prices start at $8.99 a month for the basic service with one month free trial. The basic service offers 1 stream to view on multiple devices in standard definition whilst standard is $11.99 and comes in HD with 2 streams and premium is $14.99 with 4 streams (only useful if you have a large family really). There is also no lock in contract.
The unfortunately named Stan is the streaming service that is co-owned by Channel 9 (as the Nine Entertainment Co) and Fairfax Media and pre-empted the launch of Netflix by opening for business on Australia day. It is very much run on the Netflix model and has roughly the same amount of titles (1250 at launch as opposed to Netflix’s 1120 titles). Stan has big name movies titles such as the James Bond Library and the Wolf of Wall Street but scores especially high with it’s TV content offering up exclusive rights to Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul (as well as Breaking Bad), Amazon’s transgender hit Transparent, Fargo and nordic noir hits The Bridge and The Killing.
Like Netflix there is no lock in contract and the price is $10 per month on unlimited devices and three streams. At the moment there is not a lot to choose between Netflix and Stan it will no doubt eventually come down to who amasses the biggest library. Price wise you could have both and it would still be cheaper than a Foxtel subscription.
Presto is the Foxtel streaming service, it has the benefit of having deals in place with HBO, Sony, Fox and also carries Foxtel original series such as Wentworth, Devil’s Playground and Love My Way as well big US shows like The Walking Dead. At the moment it has a library of 1200 titles one tenth of which are TV and also offers the same no contract deal but unlike Netflix or Stan it follows the Foxtel pattern of trying to get as much money out of you as possible by offering up the TV and Movie content as separate packages for $9.99 each or combined for $14.99 for both. To our minds that makes it a way less attractive proposition, of course you want the TV and Movies option. It is also only available in Standard definition but does offer a 30 day free trial.
Quickflix has been around since 2003 as an Australian/New Zealand online DVD rental outfit but has been offering a streaming service since 2011. It also is part owned by Nine Entertainment Co. Having been around longer it also has the largest library – some 2300 titles with again about a tenth being TV. Quickflix has two streaming models one is a “stream to own” iTunes style service with big name shows such as Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and House of Cards which you pay by the episode for (at the moment this is $5.99 for a movie and $2.99 for a TV episode) and the more traditional monthly fee ($9.99 a month) and has shows such as Orphan Black, True Blood and Entourage. Like the others the service is available across all internet devices and has a strong range of titles.
Foxtel Play is the streaming version of Foxtel and offers up the same sort of packages with all of the Foxtel channels available for live streaming (depending on which packages you choose of course). Price wise it’s the most expensive at a minimum of $25 a month (and realistically to get everything you wanted you would be looking at about $75 a month for a general entertainment, sports and movie package) but they do have pretty much every live sporting event tied up including this year Formula One (offering up for the first time in Australia all the practice sessions and extra shows direct from the UK).
Of all the streaming sites we have tested Foxtel Play has been the most niggly though, generally good picture quality on normal TV shows but sometimes distinctly low grade when it comes to sporting events particularly F1 which needs that super crispness. Also the minute the internet drops you lose connection so if you live in an area that has hit and miss non NBN coverage it can lead to frustration. There are some plus points though, lots and lots of high profile content, there is no lock in contract and if you subscribe to Foxtel normally (ie with the box and dish) Play is part of the package anyway.
FREE TO AIR OPTIONS
Besides all of the above the free to air networks all offer up catch up services. These are all free to use but (with the exception of the ABC’s iView) still have advertisements. Unlike the streaming services above these offer TV shows only (with the odd exception here and there) and shows will only be available for a short time frame. Most of these require the installation of an app to your device but most can also be viewed online.
iView is the ABC’s catch up service that has been around since 2008, it offers up a massive amount of ABC’s home grown and bought in content and is nicely organised into different categories. Probably the easiest to use of all the free to air services but you can watch online but works brilliantly with available for devices and some smart TVs.
SBS ON DEMAND
SBS On Demand is equally as good as iView and offers all recent SBS content for catch up viewing. On Demand also has a massive collection of movies for viewing too. Also has a good and usable app for mobile devices and smart tvs.
Plus7 is Channel 7’s online streaming catch up. The three commercial networks have been slow to embrace streaming but are all now heavily on board. Plus7 offers a mix of shows from 7, 7 Two and 7mate both home grown and international. There is also a fairly new app. Again shows are only available for a limited time. Plus7 also offers up some content that you can only find on the service such as complete seasons of old favourites (at the time of writing season one of All Saints is up for viewing).
Another relative newcomer Ten Play has all the latest Channel 10 shows most prominently MasterChef. A good user interface and an easy to navigate layout are definite plus points. There is also an app for all devices but at the moment if you want to watch on TV only Sony smart TV’s are able to make use of it.
9JumpIn is Channel 9’s catch up and like the others there are all your favourite channel 9 shows and there is also an App available. 9JumpIn has a nice clean interface and also offers up some complete seasons of classic shows for viewing.
In terms of free to air TV we need a really good all in one app that brings all the various networks together. We know there is freeview plus but you need a special receiver to access it so that doesn’t count.
In full on streaming services terms we would love to see more classic movies and tv shows on all of these services or even a niche service that is solely dedicated to classic material.
If you haven’t tried any of them yet then you should definitely check some of them out especially the free to air ones of course. In our view Netflix is the one we turn to most often but Stan is up there too.
Kick-Ass TV Heroines: Xena – Warrior Princess
What was not to love about Xena? As Lucy Lawless says: “Xena is a bad-ass, kick-ass, pre-Mycenaean girl.” Evildoers, clearly, must stand down, but not only bad guys (and girls) have Xena-phobia. Even heroes quake when she swings her broadsword.
Originally created as a syndicated complement to Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena pretty much kicked Herc to the curb. It was like when the Bionic Woman made us lose interest in the Six Million Dollar Man–only more so.
Unlike Lindsay Wagner’s early half-woman, half-machine, Xena wasn’t prone to frailty. Nor did she need robot parts. In fact, the Warrior Princess never lost. If she’s down, it’s not for long.
Plus, she was in touch with the dark side: This big-boned bruiser had definite moments of blood lust, as well as lust of some other varieties. Garbed in a leather miniskirt and armed with her trademark razor-edged, boomerang-action chakram, we watched Xena single-leggedly kick down entire platoons of Roman soldiers.
Sure, there were murmurings about Xena and her softer female sidekick, Gabrielle (actress Renée O’Connor). So what if they liked to conserve bathwater by doubling up? And what’s wrong with close friends frenching once in a while?
Then again, maybe it was true–and there’s anything wrong with that.
Actress: Lucy Lawless
Show: Xena: Warrior Princess
Classic TV Revisited: McMillan And Wife
Starring Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James, McMillan and Wife was a super cute crime-solving saga from the 1970s made for the NBC’s Mystery Movie series.
Who were they?
Hubby was the debonair San Francisco police commissioner Stewart McMillan.
Sally was a foxy, rather scatterbrained dame with a knack for finding corpses.
Worked down the morgue did she?
Hardly. Sally’s finds were usually in some glitzy mansion which the couple were frequenting for a weekend cocktail party. She also had a habit of getting her life threatened or being kidnapped.
Who was in it?
Tragic Hollywood star Rock Hudson no less. He took on Stewart McMillan in his first TV role, after years as a matinee idol with movies such as Giant.
Fans of the lantern-jawed star were dismayed when he went public about having Aids. He had long kept his homosexuality secret. He carried on working in ’80s glam drama Dynasty, but make-up could not disguise the deterioration of this once-statuesque man. He died in 1985, aged 59.
What about Sally?
That role fell to raven-locked Susan Saint James. The Ali MacGraw lookalike was previously in shows such as Alias Smith And Jones and The Name of the Game.
A vital ingredient to McMillan And Wife was sharp-tongued housekeeper Mildred, played by Nancy Walker. Somebody needed to keep the place tidy while they gallivanted about solving crime.
Famous guest stars?
The couple’s conception?
Like Hart To Hart, the idea was borrowed from Dashiell Hammett’s Thin Man books of the ’30s.
Gritty crime drama?
Hardly. These were cosy whodunnit cases, where the brutality of murder was never portrayed. The show was more about the interplay between McMillan and Sally.
Had viewers arrested?
Certainly in the US. It was the fifth highest-rated show in 1972 and 1973.
Fate of the golden couple?
Susan Saint James quit in 1976 over a contractual dispute. Nancy Walker also packed away her duster as housekeeper Mildred.
The dame’s exit was a fatal blow?
Certainly for the character of Sally – she was killed off in a plane crash. But Rock soldiered on with new assistant Sgt Steve DiMaggio (Richard Gilliland). The show became McMillan.
Audiences dwindled and the plug was pulled.
Cosy pillow talk, cocktail parties, Rock Hudson, pyjamas and numerous corpses.
Let’s go to bed. Turn the light out, darling.
Must you eat toast in bed, darling. Apologies, but I’ve got terrible flatulence. Separate bedrooms.
Not to be confused with
My Wife Next Door, Harold Macmillan, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Mr And Mrs.
Classic TV Revisited: The Royal
The Royal was an ITV drama commission and was inspired by its sister programme Heartbeat.
The lowdown: This nostalgic family drama is set in the swinging 1960s and centres on the staff of a cottage hospital in Yorkshire. Newly qualified doctor David Cheriton (Julian Ovenden) is determined to make a difference to the world and arrives at St Aidan’s Royal Free Hospital in Elinsby full of big ideas. But he clashes with the hospital’s secretary TJ Middleditch (Ian Carmichael) who is determined to run things his way. Then there is the Matron (Wendy Craig) who rules her nurses with a rod of iron and tries in vain to stop them being distracted by the handsome arrival.
Memorable moments: Watch out for former Heartbeat favourite Bill Maynard who crosses dramas and continents as Claude Jeremiah Greengrass. Greengrass has returned from a Caribbean holiday with a mystery illness but that doesn’t stop him trying to earn a fast buck. It doesn’t take long before Claude attracts Matron’s ire.
Trivia: The Royal is a family affair for real life husband and wife Robert Daws (Ormerod) and Amy Robbins (Weatherill). No fewer than seven members of their clan have appeared in the series including their daughters and stepson.
Michelle Hardwick, who played receptionist Lizzie, says her favourite moment in the whole series didn’t come on screen but in the actors’ green room. She says: “I was sitting in there with Wendy Craig and Honor Blackman and we were having a lovely conversation. I sat back and thought ‘Wow, this is great, I can’t wait to tell my gran’.”
A modern day set version called The Royal Today aired 7 January – 14 March 2008.
First broadcast: 2003
Starred: Wendy Craig, Ian Carmichael, Michael Starke, Robert Daws and Julian Ovenden
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