Netflix offers one of the largest libraries of online content in the world. In addition, Netflix-original content has been making waves across the world. Examples include House of Cards and Orange is the New Black receiving widespread acclaim. Some recent additions have caused a stir amongst audiences – including the Marvel-produced Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron First and, most recently, The Defenders. Unfortunately, the remainder of the current Australian library is measurably less than what US subscribers enjoy. And with Netflix clamping down on the use of VPNs, this means less viewing for your dollar.
But Netflix has recently adjusted its content acquisition strategy. Instead of local distribution agreements, the SVoD service is focusing on securing global rights and producing more original content. So the international Netflix library should become more consistent over time. In the meantime, Australian content available on Netflix includes The Time of our Lives, Janet King, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.
Foxtel Now offers access to Foxtel channel packages without a dedicated cable, which means that subscribers can access a massive amount of content. Viewers get to choose from five base Genre packages – Drama, Pop, Docos, Lifestyle, and Kids. Both the Drama and Pop packs bring acclaimed HBO shows to the screen – meaning you get to watch Game of Thrones as soon as it comes out. If you’re feeling greedy, you can pick and mix amongst the Genre packs month to month. Viewers can also select from two Premium Packs – Movies and Sports – and even add on up to three new English Premier League channels. And this is a big deal – no other SVoD provider in Australia offers this level of access to live sports streaming.
Looking at both libraries, it’s clear that the range and amount of content is set to grow over time. Netflix continues to secure global licenses for its offerings, in addition to producing more of its own great programming. But it’s sports that sets Foxtel Now, previously known as Foxtel Play, apart from Netflix. Currently, Foxtel holds rights to stream NRL, AFL, tennis, PGA golf, NFL, NBA, Rugby Sevens, A League, cricket surfing, V8 Supercars, and the F1 Grand Prix. Netflix does not.
However, it should be noted that these libraries are not static offerings. Companies buy, swap and extend broadcasting rights to certain programs and movies. In that light, the perceived value of any SVoD service becomes quite subjective. Libraries change – and so will what the viewers enjoy.
Netflix works on almost any device you care to mention. Netflix also allows for unlimited devices to access an account. However, users with the basic plan can only stream to one device at a time. This moves up to two devices on the standard plan, and four on premium.
Foxtel Now puts the majority of Foxtel’s content in reach of locations where cable or satellite access aren’t possible. Or desired. There’s no waiting around for an install. Just sign up and start watching with the Foxtel Now app. The service works on Macs/PCs, mobile devices, Telstra TV, PS4 and Chromecast. Its previous version, Foxtel Play, is still available on Xbox One, PlayStation 3, recent-model LG, Sony and Samsung smart TVs, and Samsung Blu-ray players.
Here’s the rub. Netflix limits screens based on the package you sign up for that month. But it doesn’t force users to register their devices. If your smartphone battery runs low, you can start streaming to your laptop in seconds. But Foxtel Now requires you to register each device you wish to use with the service – and you can only change this registration once per month. Foxtel Now also limits the number of active screens to two. If your phone goes bust and your laptop doesn’t have enough juice in the battery, you can’t just flip on the TV and get the Foxtel Now app. You have to register in advance. This is a small concern overall, but it does limit your viewing options.
Netflix adjusts its streaming quality based on the connections available. It has a suggested minimum recommended broadband speed of 1.5MB/s. But to make use of 4K streaming (aka Ultra HD), users need a minimum of 25MB/s (or around 15Mb/s if you’re using a very recent smart TV or an Xbox One). This puts it out of reach for many mobile users. But then again, how many smartphones have a 4K screen?
Foxtel Now needs a stable 3Mb/s to deliver steady SD streaming. For HD, it needs a minimum of 6Mb/s connections to stream smoothly.
For more details on recommended broadband speeds, check out this article on SVoD data usage.
Netflix offers three tiers of subscriptions. The Basic pack ($9.99/month) delivers the full catalogue to a single screen at a time in standard definition. The Standard pack ($13.99/month) enables HD streaming to two screens simultaneously. And the Premium pack ($17.99/month) offers 4K streaming to up to four screens. Again, no lock-in contracts, and new users can trial Netflix for free for 30 days.
Foxtel Now packs start at $10/month for the Docos, Lifestyle and Kids packs. It’s $15/month for the Drama and Pop packs – or $25/month for both Drama and Pop in a bundle. Each of these come with a few bonus channels – V Hits, Fox News, TVSN, Sky News Live, Sky News Business, Sky News Weather, Fox Sport News. The Movie pack is an additional $20/month, and the Sports pack is another $29/month. Users can pause their account whenever they want and cancel anytime. HD streaming is available, only three devices can be registered in each month, and only two screens can be active at any one time. Best of all, EVERYONE can grab the Foxtel Now free trial whether you’re a new user or existing Foxtel Play subscriber!
The Netflix Help Center offers subscribers a searchable glossary of frequently-asked questions. Netflix does not offer an online peer-to-peer support community. But users can chat with a representative with an average wait time of under one minute. Customers can also call Netflix directly, with a one-minute wait time in most cases. Lost passwords are easily resolved, with users receiving email support in seconds.
Foxtel Now leverages the interactive online subscriber community put in place by its parent company. This lets subscribers offer advice to their peers based on past experiences. The streamlined FAQ is easy to navigate, and the support page helps subscribers tackle most issues. Users can also get on Twitter for quick interactions directly with Foxtel-trained staff. Subscribers can also email Foxtel support for a guaranteed response within 24 hours. For password resets, an automated service emails the users within seconds of the request.
Netflix features a personalised online interface. It showcases customised film taste profiles and ratings based on subscriber feedback. Users look at highly-rated reviews from other subscribers, but not from top critics – which means the reviews tend to vary in relevance. Most modern game consoles, HDTVs, tablets, and smartphones offer a free Netflix app. And Netflix offers high-definition films and shows, but their availability is subject to bandwidth and subscription. This is because Netflix adjusts playback quality to eliminate buffering screens, and grades playback based on how much you’re paying each month.
Netflix’s personalised home page shows featured content, past viewing and recently trending viewing options. Source, Netflix.
If you’ve used any Foxtel product, you’ll be familiar with Foxtel Now’s interface. The Home screen displays two main panels – one for live streaming, the other for catch-up viewing. The Live TV panel shows all the channels available on Now, but greying out channels that aren’t included in your subscription. The ever-present now-next-later EPG with inset video makes browsing the channels a breeze. The Catch-Up panel displays featured content, as well as easy to use filter options. Having selected a channel, movie or program, the app takes a few seconds to buffer before beginning playback. Foxtel Now recently launched a new, more intuitive interface that’s getting a lot of praise from customers.
Foxtel has launched a dedicated streaming device, the Foxtel Now box, which is a small box that you connect to your Wi-Fi and sets you up to stream Foxtel Now. It’s available for purchase for $99. This review was updated in October 2018.
The Foxtel Play “Home” screen displays featured viewing options. Source:Foxtel Play.
Choosing Between Foxtel Now and Netflix
Both viewing platforms continue to expand their libraries and improve their technical deliveries. This makes it hard to choose which offering is worth your hard-earned coin.
On one hand, Netflix has the technical advantage. The streaming quality and device compatibility range, and flexibility of viewing options without device registration keep it ahead of Foxtel Now. Netflix keeps track of what you watch and remembers where you left off. It also offers suggestions based on what your peers are viewing.
On the other hand, Foxtel Now’s live-streaming can either be a pro or a con. If you like a good binge-session, then Foxtel Now misses the mark, with the exception of their on demand content. If you like just sitting down and selecting a channel, a la traditional FTA TV, then Foxtel Now hits the spot. But the big differentiator is the Sports Package add-on. Netflix doesn’t do sport at all, live or otherwise. But Foxtel Now delivers access to a wide range of live broadcasts favourites like AFL, NRL, Super Rugby, Supercars, and F1®. Euro-football fans can watch UEFA Champions League matches live, along with all Serie A, Bundesliga and La Liga matches.
Netflix comes up ahead in terms of price and technical slickness. The buffer-less viewing makes watching movies and series a breeze, while the low $9.99 entry point is appealing to everyone’s wallet. Unless sports matters in your viewing mix? In which case, Foxtel Now is the obvious answer. The only caveat being Foxtel Now’s higher price point of $39/month (that’s $10/month for basic access and $29/month for the Sports package).
To really get to grips with these offerings, it’s best to try them out in person. Netflix makes this easy with a 30-day free trial, and Foxtel Now delivers a 14-day free trial as well. So why not try both?