Ever heard the phrase comparing Apples with Apples? Of course you have. And yes, it’s confusing now Apple is such a big thing, but it’s also almost useless to consider comparing streaming media services to subscription TV services. Why? And which is best?
There’s not doubt the whole streaming TV segment is basically defined by the label “Netflix” even before the service launched here in Australia. With such success in the USA and now huge amounts of money being spent on “Netflix originals” the company is really setting itself up in the USA as being a competitor to the big content creators and TV networks. The difference is Australia. We’re a very different market.
The US Broadcast networks have been under pressure from “Cable” companies for years and years, while in Australia Foxtel has cracked just 30% of the market. That’s making Foxtel a nice sum of money, but it doesn’t give them the market power that the cable networks in America have over the future of the industry. In Australia, broadcast free-to-air is hugely dominant for a wide variety of reasons and one can only assume that’s the segment at the most risk – which is why Channel 9 created Stan (with Fairfax) and why Channel 7 partnered with Foxtel (on Presto).
Fetch TV is the hybrid of them all. A single investment in a Fetch TV box ($349 or less, and you own the box), plus $5-20 a month gets you Free to Air TV, Huge recording capabilities, an outstanding user interface, on-demand Movies and TV content, plus you can sign up to and watch Netflix within it.
Devil in the detail
Compare Netflix to Stan and Presto and you’ll simply be confused.
Stan comes in at $10 a month. Allows you to use multiple devices (6 devices, 3 simultaneous streams), and critically streams in SD and HD and can be viewed on your big-screen via Chromecast and Apple TV.
Presto starts at $9.99 for Movies, or $9.99 for TV shows, or $14.99 for both. Available only in SD and available on multiple devices (4) (2 simultaneously) but only on Chromecast (Not Apple TV)
Netflix comes in at an undercutting $8.99 thanks mainly to their ability to avoid charging GST to Aussie customers, and for that you can watch on just one screen at a time in Standard Definition. Their default recommended plan (when you go to sign up) is $11.99 and gives you the ability to watch in High Definition and on two screens simultaneously. At $14.99 per month you can watch on four screens, in HD and where available even Ultra HD (if you have the bandwidth to cope). Netflix also has the advantage of being pre-installed and available as an App on a bunch of TVs and consoles too.
Remember, you must have an internet connection and a healthy data allowance to make the most of your monthly streaming subscription.
People who suggest Foxtel will suffer as a result of Netflix launching in Australia are deluded. And I’d hazard to guess they aren’t even Foxtel Subscribers.
Foxtel has a lot of things going for it. 95 Channels of content all the time, Aussie originals on the lifestyle, news and entertainment channels. Shows like the Simpsons rate very very well on Foxtel (still) and you won’t find that on Stan, Presto or Netflix. And then there’s live content. News and Sport. Without Sport, Foxtel would be in real trouble, but they have it, people pay for it, and they broadcast it in such a high quality that streaming services simply cannot compete.
It’s more likely Foxtel customers will sign up to additional services on top of their Foxtel Plans, and perhaps drop a part of their package with Foxtel – so the ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) for Foxtel may go down a bit, but not enough to harm them just yet.
For my mind, Stan is the early winner on price. A clear set fee of $10, and for that you get great device support, multiple streams and High-Definition content.
Tough call – it’s such a personal thing. I found this morning Summer Heights High on all three services, and frankly you might find a bit of that in time as content owners sell their stuff across the companies. While in reality the big decisions are going to be made on the unique content.
Netflix has House of Cards and that’s a big deal for some, plus they are making a bunch of content and that appeals to a lot of people. While those people make a lot of noise online, the reality is that in fact some of those shows wouldn’t be viable on Broadcast TV because of their limited appeal. It’s an interesting situation.
Critically, Netflix may have an amazing library for US customers, but they don’t have those rights globally, so in Australia the content mix is smaller and not as diverse – that’s going to keep a bunch of people connected to their back-door VPNs for some time.
I think most people will ask themselves what do I want to watch? Better Call Saul has to be the best acquisition of the year in Australian entertainment, because it’s a week to week program that will require a paid subscription to Stan after your first trial, where as I can grab the whole of House of Cards in a binge week via Netflix free subscription.
The Water cooler will be critical here, people will tell their mates what they are watching and that will influence choice.
Compare streaming to Box Sets of DVD’s and you’ll see the benefit in a $10 a month subscription pretty quick. Every episode of Entourage is available on Presto for $10 a month, to buy that on a box set would be a couple of hundred dollars.
Don’t forget Quickflix and Ezyflix, both offer generous libraries of content and good value, Aussie companies now drowned out by the big names – but if you’re genuinely shopping around – you’ve got to take a look.
The long and the short of it?
Shop around, sample them all, find out what you like.
My guess is a vast number of people will choose two of the services, while others will switch around a bit.
The early winner
I’m giving it to Stan. Great interface, good device support, good quality streams at a low price and lots of good content. If I was trying to explain to people what this streaming revolution was all about, I’d recommend they try Stan first to get an understanding of it all.
In second place a dead heat between Foxtel (IQ3 is brilliant) and Fetch TV (So much content on one box that is yours to own)