Australia is often said to be one of the most sports-obsessed countries on Earth, and we’ve certainly been known for a long time as one of the most eager to adopt new technologies. When Netflix finally arrived, Australians jumped on it like it was the second coming (and in TV terms, perhaps it was) and in the few short years since, we’ve become a nation of streamers. But in the rush, one very large group got left behind – sports fans.
Overseas, sports streaming is big business. The big sport codes like Major League Baseball have their own streaming services (some of which are actually available to Australians as well) and you can sign up for live TV streaming with companies such as DirecTV and Hulu that’ll give you all the sport action from both free and pay channels. But it’s taken some time for sport to get there in the US compared to general entertainment, and we’ve seen that here as well.
Streaming Sports in Australia
There have been rumblings here for a while – AFL and NRL fans have been able to stream games via dedicated services run by Telstra for a few years, for example, but streaming was restricted to tiny screens. If you wanted to stream live sport in Australia the option to go for has long been Foxtel Now, which has been doing a brilliant job at delivering live sport to all sorts of devices for ages. And of course, over many years free-to-air TV has been the bastion of televised sport. It’s always been ready to beam the latest major events into our homes for free – test cricket and one-day internationals, the week’s top AFL and NRL games, Wimbledon, the Olympics, and dozens more. Sport on free to air TV became such a part of Australian culture that there’s specific legislation designed to protect it – the so-called “anti-siphoning list” of sporting events that must be shown on free to air TV. Sport coverage provided by free-to-air TV continues to dominate peoples’ attention, having been part of our lives for so long. But more and more sporting events are moving to paid services to provide more comprehensive coverage that’s just not possible within the right free-to-air schedule.
Now, the idea of sport being something only watched live has been challenged by the much-anticipated arrival of Australia’s first dedicated sport streaming service, namely Kayo Sports. It launched last November and quickly got sports fans sitting up and taking notice. Unofficially intended to be the “Netflix of sport”, it takes a very different approach to sport compared to free-to-air TV and Foxtel Now. So, which is the biggest bang for your buck – and which one does the best job at delivering fresh digital sport to your streaming device of choice? Read on!
If it’s sport streaming you want, anything else you have to get along with it is a potential distraction. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, of course – after all, very few people watch nothing else but sports! But if you’re happy with the other general entertainment streaming options like Netflix and Stan, having access to a sports-only streaming service might be a dream come true.
Sport on Foxtel Now
The first thing you need to know about Foxtel Now is that you can’t just get the sports channels. You have to pay for the entry-level “Essentials” pack first, which recently combines the “Pop” and “Lifestyle” packs. That gets you access to 12 channels of general entertainment stuff, with the most notable being the premium Fox Showcase channel (home of HBO’s acclaimed shows). To get the sport channels, you have to pay a little extra for the Sports pack.
What that gets you is great value. You get full access to all of Foxtel’s sport channels – 13 in total – though because of AFL rights issues, the Fox Footy channel is replaced by Footy Play (you still get all the games in HD, though). You can stream some sports on demand as well, but that’s fairly limited at the moment.
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Sport on Free to Air
The amount of sport on free to air, meanwhile, has been slowly but inexorably shrinking over the past few years. There are very valid cost reasons for that, as various sporting codes charge more and more for the rights to broadcast their games and events, to the point where free to air networks, struggling to make money in a world where suddenly there’s a vast array of new options, can’t afford to buy the rights alone. As a result, we see some of the biggest sports on free to air TV sharing a licensing deal with Fox Sports, which has become the powerhouse of televised sports in recent years. So a fan of Formula One, for example, can catch the Championship on Channel Ten – but very little of it live. Instead, only the Australian Grand Prix is screened live, with the rest shown as highlights packages later on.
AFL and NRL, too, are shared between Fox Sports and free to air, and if you’re a fan of the round football that some call soccer, you’re going to find only a handful of A-League games on free to air – with the rest shown via Fox Sports channels. Free to air excels, though, at coverage of major international events like the Olympic Games, and horse racing fans in some states even get a dedicated racing channel – racing.com.
Sport on Kayo
And then we come to the newest player – Kayo. It’s a service that needs to be thought of differently. “Channels” don’t exist in Kayo’s world. Instead, you can choose what you want to watch from a menu of content that’s all available at the touch of a button – both on-demand replays of completed events and, of course, live coverage.
Kayo source most of their sport coverage via Fox Sports – not surprising, as they’re part of the same company. With individual sports front and centre instead of channels, you simply pick your favourite sports and let Kayo bring you to the content. Everything you’d expect is here – AFL and NRL, F1 and MotoGP, all forms of Cricket, tennis, baseball, basketball, American football – if it’s happening live, it’s on Kayo.
And the best part about Kayo is that you don’t need to be there at the right time to see the match. If you come in an hour late, you can access a live stream or watch the event from the start. In comparison, replays on Foxtel Now are usually available some time after the game is over, and with free-to-air, you’ll have to rely on the networks scheduling a replay of the game, or catch the highlights on the news or one of the many sport-focused programs such as The Footy Show. The great thing about Kayo is that the replay is available to be played as soon as the game kicks off – the game can still be in progress and you can stream it right from the start.
Ways to Watch
With free-to-air TV and the brand-new Kayo being relative newcomers to the streaming world – while Foxtel Now has years of experience at it – it’s important to note which platforms that each service actually has apps available for. While a modern web browser on desktop and laptop computers will do just fine to stream live or replayed video from all of them, that’s not how most of us want to watch our sport – we want it on the big screen!
How to Watch Online with Foxtel Now
Foxtel’s online platform Foxtel Now streams in HD via apps available for iOS, Playstation 4 and Telstra TV, as well as Foxtel’s own streaming box (which is built around Foxtel Now as an interface). You can also cast from your phone or tablet to a Chromecast device or to an Apple TV via AirPlay. Android users are out of luck, and there don’t appear to be any plans to support that platform.
How to Stream Live with Kayo
Kayo, meanwhile, has come out of the gate with apps for (almost) all. You can stream it in the Chrome and Safari web browsers on Windows 10 or MacOS 10.12 and higher, and cast to Chromecast devices direct from the browser if using Chrome. Apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets are a better way to do the Chromecast thing if you want to, though – but keep in mind that the Chromecast Ultra is recommended for best results.
And it gets even better – Kayo has a superb app for Apple TV (both current models, but of course not the long-obsolete 3rd-generation one). This is easily the best way to watch Kayo, with its comprehensive support for all of the service’s extra features (more on those in a moment). There’s also an app for both versions of Telstra TV, with the ability to subscribe to Kayo on your Telstra phone bill on that platform, and one for Android TV devices. Kayo streams in full 1080p high definition to all of these devices, too.
Free to Air Streaming
Free-to-air TV doesn’t want to be left out of the Australian streaming race either, and has been expanding its viewing options in recent years, with the various networks’ apps available on most popular platforms and used by huge numbers of people. You can stream most free-to-air channels live via both their own apps and the all-encompassing Freeview FV app, and in some cases also send the stream to your TV via Chromecast. But you’d have to catch the game live – the free-to-air networks don’t offer catch-up replays for sport.
Best Hardware Deals for Streaming TV
Each of these platforms offers different features and ways to watch, including the ability to view an event live or catch a replay at a later time. There are some features unique to each platform, such as Kayo’s unique Split View, Foxtel Now’s On-demand library and free-to-air’s no-cost streaming apps. Here are a few of the features that make each unique.
Popular Foxtel Now Features
With the online Foxtel Now platform, you have the familiar and comfortable interface for live-channel viewing that’ll be familiar to any veteran channel-surfer. You can either tune in to the particular channel you want to watch and stream it live or navigate to the On Demand section to see if an event you missed is available there. It’s all about you searching out the content you want and either being around when it’s on, or finding it later.
Free to Air Features
With the free-to-air networks you’ll need to search out the times that their sports coverage is going to take place and have the channel’s app at the ready, so you can watch the action unfold as it happens. If you miss the first half, though, you’ve missed it – you’ll just have to pick up from where you came in.
Kayo’s Unique Features
Kayo, meanwhile, is all about connecting you with the sport you want to see. When you sign in, you’re asked what sports and teams you follow, and that plays into what you see on the home screen of the apps. Currently-live games are highlighted, on-demand older games are right there on the same page, and everything’s easy to find.
As the newest member of the streaming community, Kayo’s got a few tricks up its sleeve as well. The Split View feature (not available on Telstra TV, sadly) is brilliant. You start streaming one game, then enable split view to add 1, 2 or 3 extra windows, then pick the sports streams you want in them (either live or on demand). And there they all are, streaming flawlessly at the same time. It’s like being your own TV director. There’s also a “Key Moments” feature where you can skip directly to the bits that mattered – wickets, goals, and so on – and comprehensive stats for the games if you choose to view them. A “no spoilers” setting makes sure you’re able to watch games in progress without knowing the outcome.
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In many ways, sport fans have never had it so good when it comes to streaming coverage of their favourite sports at a low cost. Foxtel Now requires you to subscribe to the Essentials pack before you can add the Sport pack, for a total of $54/month for access to all the live sports channels, alongside a wealth of other content from general entertainment to premium drama like Game of Thrones. As a package it’s phenomenal.
Kayo, is priced for instant appeal to people laser-focused on sport, with a flat rate of $25/month for access to everything. That lets you watch on two screens at a time; you can opt for the “premium” subscription at $35/month for three screens at once, but the amount of simultaneous screens is the only difference between the two Kayo plans.
Free-to-air’s online coverage is, of course, free – but comes with all the limitations you’d expect, including frequent ad breaks, no sport catch-up and lesser picture quality. You do get what you pay for and while there’s not much to complain about when you’re enjoying a free service, if you love your sports you’ll already be thinking beyond the free-to-air coverage and checking out Kayo and Foxtel Now instead.
We’ve got plenty of time for Foxtel Now, which provides a terrific streaming alternative to satellite Foxtel for general TV viewers, with its inclusion of all the premium sport channels a boon for sports fans who want something to watch when it’s not game day.
A review of Kayo reveals superbly designed apps and a bright, inviting user experience – along with a plethora of sport live and on demand and some truly innovative extra features – making it exceptional value for money if you’re here for the sport, all the sport and nothing but the sport. It’s a sports fan’s dream, and for many it’ll be a no-brainer, the sport streaming service you just stay subscribed to, just like Netflix is for entertainment.
And as for free-to-air TV, well, you’ve grown up with it and you know what to expect by now. The networks now all having an online presence is great, but when it comes to sport, you’ll want to look at a service that’s got the resources, skills and budget to take it more seriously.
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You can, of course, check out the options for yourself – Foxtel Now has a ten day free trial, while streaming newcomer Kayo Sports currently offers two weeks completely free so you can road-test each one and see what’s right for you. Our verdict, though, is that when it comes to streaming sport, free-to-air’s a long way behind both Foxtel Now and the new sport mecca of Kayo.