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 we eagerly 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.
Kayo Sports vs Foxtel Now
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 high quality sport streaming in Australia there was only one real option – Foxtel Now. But all that’s changed now, with the long-rumoured and much-anticipated arrival of Australia’s first dedicated sport streaming service. Called Kayo Sports, it launched in November and already has sports fans sitting up and taking notice. Unofficially intended to be the “Netflix of sport”, it takes a very different approach to streaming sport to Foxtel Now. So, which is better bang for your buck – and which one does a better 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.
Foxtel Now Live Sport and TV
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 pack first, which recently was changed to be a combo of what Foxtel calls 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). But then, to get the sport channels, you have to pay extra for the Sports pack.
What that gets you is arguably still great value – if you are interested in the Pop and Lifestyle channels as well (which can also be streamed on demand, making it a de facto HBO streaming service!). 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. For example, F1 fans can stream the latest Grand Prix and the previous one, but that’s all.
Kayo Sports Live and On-Demand
Kayo, on the other hand, needs to be thought of differently. “Channels” simply do not exist in Kayo’s world (though if you go hunting around the app you’ll find you can stream the source channels live if you really need a dose of real-time TV!). As the “Netflix of sport” you’re instead choosing what you 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 doesn’t advertise it, but it’s obvious that the source for all their sport is Foxtel – 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, Rugby and 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 stream live or watch from the start. In comparison, replays on Foxtel Now are usually only available some time after the game is over (often a day later). With Kayo, the replay is available as soon as the game kicks off. One exception: there’s no replays available for NFL games (probably a licensing restriction).
Ways to Watch
With both the revamped Foxtel Now and the brand-new Kayo being relative newcomers to the streaming world, it’s important to note which platforms that each service actually has apps available for. While both will work just fine in a modern web browser on desktop and laptop computers, that’s not how most of us want to watch our sport – we want it on the big screen!
Foxtel Now Streaming
Foxtel Now evolved from the older Foxtel Play service, which has apps on a fairly wide range of platforms including older smart TVs and game consoles. But Play can’t stream in high definition, so we’ll ignore it.
Foxtel Now streams in HD in web browsers and 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.
Kayo Sports Streaming
Kayo, meanwhile, has come out of the gate with apps for (almost) all. You can watch in all the popular web browsers on Windows 10 or MacOS 1012 and higher, and cast to Chromecast devices direct from the browser if using Google 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.
But it gets even better – Kayo has a superb app for the 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. An app for Android TV is on the way (which will cover Sony’s smart TVs as well as popular boxes like the Nvidia Shield).
Kayo streams in full 1080p high definition to all of these devices – and that’s actually another point of difference from Foxtel Now, where live streams are restricted to only 720p. Picture quality on Kayo is easily the equal of watching on Foxtel’s iQ boxes, and in many cases arguably even better than that.
With Foxtel Now, it’s pretty much “what you see is what you get”. It’ll be a familiar and comfortable interface for live-channel viewing for any veteran channel-surfer. You 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 seeking out the content you want and either being around when it’s on, or finding it later. On Demand streaming for the non-sport channels is pretty comprehensive, though, so if the idea of binge-watching a few seasons of Game of Thrones appeals to you as an added bonus, Foxtel Now has you covered.
Kayo, meanwhile, is all about the sport. 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.
But Kayo Sport has 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, 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.
Free Trial and Cost Comparison
The clincher in a battle between Foxtel Now and Kayo is, of course, the price. As a streaming equivalent of Foxtel’s satellite service, Foxtel Now requires you to subscribe to a base channel pack first before you can add any of the premium packs – including sport. So you need to spend $25/month just for the “Pop” and “Lifestyle” combo, then spend another $29/month on the sport pack. That’s a total of $54/month – and you can often get the full satellite Foxtel service with sport for less than that!
Kayo, on the other hand, is priced for instant appeal at 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 plans. Even better, Kayo has no lock-in contract, so you’re free to try it for a month or two and cancel anytime if you don’t like what you see.
Let’s put this in per-year terms to drive home the difference. Foxtel Now with the sport channels will cost you $648 per year. Kayo will cost $300. It’s barely a fair contest!
We’ve got plenty of time for Foxtel Now, which provides a terrific streaming alternative to satellite Foxtel – but it’s really aimed at general TV viewers, despite its offering of all the premium sport channels as well as a free trial. You’re still “just watching TV” with Foxtel Now. Nothing wrong with that, but now there’s an alternative.
And what an alternative! With superior picture quality, superbly designed apps and a generally bright, inviting user experience, a plethora of sport live and on demand and some truly innovative extra features, a thorough review of Kayo Sports reveals it’s exceptional value for money. It’s a sports fan’s dream, and for many it’ll be a no-brainer, the sport streaming service you stay subscribed to, just like Netflix is for entertainment.
You can, of course, see for yourself – Foxtel Now has a two week free trial and Kayo also offers a 14 day trial 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, Kayo’s the new king.