If you’ve ever gone looking for movies or TV shows to rent or buy online, you’ve probably heard of BigPond Movies, yet never used them. But the iconic Telstra brand – the last of their products to still wear the Bigpond name – is still very much active, and available to deliver entertainment no matter what brand the device happens to be.
It’s not easy competing with two juggernauts on their own playing field – and when it comes to giant-sized corporations, they don’t get much bigger than Apple and Google. Both those global brands have long held a captive audience in the palms of their respective platform hands with the iTunes Store and Google Play Movies store respectively. In the face of these juggernauts, many a digital store has packed up and gone home. That said, a review of BigPond Movies reveals it not only lives on after all these years, but seems to be thriving.
What Makes BigPond Different?
We can go on about how huge the global corporations that dominate the industry are, but Telstra’s got a lot of size and experience behind it as well – indeed, when it comes to experience, arguably more than much of Silicon Valley. As part of the company’s Telstra Media arm – which also takes care of stuff like AFL, NRL and Netball streaming apps, alongside the much-loved Telstra TV boxes – BigPond Movies is something of an iconic brand that’s stood the test of time, and managed to make the transition from old media to new without skipping a beat.
BigPond Movies was, once upon a time, a service that delivered movies and TV shows on DVD to you by physical mail – very much like stalwart service Quickflix, to which BigPond Movies sold its entire library of discs back in 2011 when they decided to move entirely to digital. That was actually a remarkable call to make back then, with renting and purchasing digital media still in its early days.
It’s worked out great for them, though, not least with the synergy it allows with other Telstra products. Whether it’s special bonuses for those with Telstra phone or broadband services, or tight integration with Telstra’s own hardware, BigPond Movies has turned out to be a handy asset to have around. But how is it for you, the customer?
Does Bigpond Movies Deliver?
The first thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to what BigPond Movies has on offer is that, unlike the digital stores run by the “big two”, this one does not contain all available movie and TV content at any one time. Those other providers spend a lot of time, money and especially server space keeping a gargantuan library of titles around in case someone wants to watch them, occasionally tossing a few out at a discount but otherwise just acting like a huge repository for all things movie and TV. It can seem a little impersonal to some, and more to the point, a bit overwhelming for people that just want to see some good quality movies or shows.
So what you’ll get when you browse the BigPond Movies range is a collection of the new stuff and the popular classic stuff without all the noise – it’s kind of like a video library down in your local shopping centre that chooses its titles with its customers’ interests in mind, rather than the huge video barn that stocks everything and asks you to wade through it all.
Popular BigPond Films
That’s not to say the range isn’t extensive. If you search, for example, for Jennifer Lawrence, you’ll see all the key titles – the Hunger Games and X-Men films, Passengers, American Hustle, Silver Linings Playbook and so on – even the defiantly arty Mother! But you won’t see the more obscure titles, such as Like Crazy – a film even the most devoted Jen fans would be hard pressed to remember.
There’s an ulterior motive behind this more curated approach, of course – and that’s the Telstra TV side of things. A huge number of people are loving the latest Telstra TV for its “keeping it simple” approach, with recommendations on stuff to watch that span the paid streaming services alongside rental or purchased content from BigPond Movies. What that means is that the service is filling in the gaps – the content you can’t stream as part of your Netflix or Stan plan, for example – and presenting it as recommendations in the same interface on the Telstra TV, where you can rent or buy it effortlessly.
And that obscure Jennifer Lawrence film you were after? If you do a search, your Telstra TV will direct you to Foxtel Now, where you can stream it as part of the movies pack. It’s very much a service that’s a key cog in the well-oiled Telstra TV machine.
As for price, it varies quite a lot – although rental prices tend to be on the low side in comparison to other services. Like the others, you pay a token amount more for HD in most cases, but rentals can be had for as little as $3.99, or you can buy the movie to keep for anywhere from $10 to $20. TV shows, as usual for these services, can’t be rented, only bought; you’re looking at about $3 per episode or $15 to $37 for a full season (and yes, Outlander fans, all seasons are here!)
Does Bigpond Movies Have Unique Content?
One clever addition to some of the movie titles rented and sold on BigPond Movies is the ability to buy an “open captioned” version, which is completely separate from the version you’d usually buy. Open captioned titles come with the subtitles permanently on, so the hard of hearing (and those who just like watching with captions) never need to hunt around for the setting that turns them on. These are marked with a distinctive “OC” logo on the title art, so you don’t rent or buy one by mistake.
The Bigpond Movies User Experience
Like other digital storefronts, once you sign in to Bigpond Movies with your Telstra account (or create a new account if you just want to rent or buy movies separately) your rentals and purchases are attached to that account across any of the devices the service works with (more on that in a moment). As a new customer, you get a free $6.99 rental upon creating an account, while Telstra Mobile and Broadband customers on some plans get two rentals to get them started.
BigPond Movies has also long been a participant in the “Telstra Thanks” program, which gives Telstra customers some nice extras for their loyalty. For a while, this involved a free standard definition movie rental each Thursday chosen out of a pool of three; this later changed to being a $3 rental but with the movie in HD. That program is being retired soon too, but we’ll update this review with information about whatever comes next as we head into 2019.
Bigpond Movies is currently available on a range of devices, with Telstra TV the platform best used for both browsing and viewing BigPond Movies content.
|Device||Does it work?|
|Telstra TV (Both Versions)||Yes|
|Android Phone/Tablet||Yes (Android 4.4 or higher)|
|Apple Phone/Tablet||Yes (iOS 9 or higher)|
|Smart TV||Yes (LG, Panasonic & Samsung 2016+)|
|Google Chromecast||Yes (unofficially as of 2019)|
|PC/Mac Computers||Yes (current web browsers)|
Google Chromecast support is, according to an alert in the iOS BigPond Movies app, no longer available – however we were able to seamlessly play a purchased movie from the app, casting to a Chromecast Ultra, where it showed no signs of any problems. The movie played in HD just fine, but the only way to stop playback was to disconnect the Chromecast completely, at which point you’d have to start again. That’s most likely the reason behind the “unsupported” message, but if you’ve got a Chromecast you want to use with BigPond Movies, our experience is that is will work (at least casting from iOS) – just not with a seamless user experience.
Perfect for your Telstra TV
Ultimately, here’s the thing – BigPond Movies is probably not going to blow your mind with depth of content (or easy access to it) if your main viewing device is an Apple or Google one. But that’s the entire point, really – Bigpond Movies is the closest thing you’ll find to an iTunes Store or a Google Play for your Telstra TV, and it’s on that platform where it really shines. Integrated as it is with the popular streaming box’s search and recommendations interface, it’s also a quick and easy way to rent or buy a digital movie or show for people who want HD without the hassle of figuring out how to get it to play on their TV. Pricing of content is comparable to the big stores, and often actually cheaper. If you own a Telstra TV and use it as your entertainment hub, you’ll fine BigPond Movies to be a key part of the experience.