Top 5 FTA Streaming Apps Review: Channel 7, 9, 10, ABC and SBS


Review was updated on 21st Nov, 2019

streaming apps

Are you a lifelong fan of everything Australia’s free to air networks have to offer? Then you know the simple pleasure of getting home from work, kicking back on the couch and flicking through channels to see what’s on. It’s almost a national pastime, one which has been made more complicated in recent years with the arrival of Freeview and the many extra channels that came with it. Thankfully, there’s a quick and convenient way to catch up with your favourite series, and here’s everything you need to know.

Free to Air Streaming Apps Review

While the TV landscape is almost unrecognisable from a decade ago, there’s still just the five big networks – three commercial and two government-owned. But thanks to the opportunity for multiple channels that digital TV brought, a session of channel-surfing these days will have you travelling through a whole bunch of new offerings. That can make it a little daunting to try to keep up with what’s on. You’re watching the semi-final of Masterchef but flick over during an ad break to find one of the new extra channels is running a Big Bang Theory marathon or the latest episode of Orphan Black. There are so many options it’s impossible to watch them all at once.

That’s where catch-up TV comes into the picture. All five networks have their own catch-up services, which most people access via apps for their smartphone or tablet, or directly via the networks’ web sites. Owners of Freeview Plus certified TVs also have all of those apps built right into their televisions, with interactive access available to past shows directly from the on-screen program guide.

Many of us can still remember the old days of recording to VHS, so this brave new world is certainly exciting. But how many programs can you really watch with catch up? Is everything recorded or just certain programs? How long does it get stored for? Which devices can I watch on? And as for the platforms themselves, are they all the same – or which ones come out on top? We’ve had a deep dive into the top five best streaming apps to give you the answers to all your questions (including a few you don’t know you have yet!)

In this Review

Streaming TV & Movies Plans

Plan
Inclusions
Price
Basic
  • New customers: 14 day free trial
  • Basic
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Watch on 2 devices concurrently
  • Watch Live NRL, AFL, Super Rugby + more
  • $25/mth
$25/mth
$25/month after 14 days free trial; no lock-in contracts.

Monthly
  • Monthly
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Available on multiple devices
  • Get access to the widest range of sports
  • $14.99/mth
$14.99/mth
Min Cost - $14.99 over 1 month

Monthly
  • Monthly
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Watch on multiple devices with the DAZN app
  • Exclusive boxing
  • $2.99/ days
$2.99/ days
Min Cost - $2.99 over 1 month

Basic
  • New customers: 14 day free trial
  • Basic
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Stream in SD on a single device
  • 10,000+ hrs of the best shows
  • $10/mth
$10/mth
Min Cost - $10/month after 14 days free trial

Essentials pack
  • New customers: All Foxtel Now packs $25/mth for 3 mths. Ends 6 Dec
  • Essentials pack
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • 25+ channels: Lifestyle, Drama, Comedy, Entertainment & more
  • Plus all other premium channel packs with Foxtel Now's Cyber Sale
  • $25/mth
$25/mth
Min Cost - $25 over 1 month

Pay Per View
  • No Subscription Fee
  • Pay Per View
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Latest releases from the cinema
  • Huge library of movies & tv shows
  • $/ days
$/ days
You can only purchase TV shows, not rent them.
Min Cost - Depending on title

Monthly Subscription
  • 30-day free trial
  • Monthly Subscription
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • New docos added weekly
  • Watch on your TV with Chromecast and AirPlay
  • $6.95/mth
$6.95/mth
$6.95/month after 30 days free trial

Last audited 29 November 2020

Top 5 Free to Air Streaming Apps

And since recently we’re seeing free-to-air networks use their streaming services for more than just mere “catch-up.” There’s original available on some of them, and libraries of shows that you can’t access anywhere else. Along with behind-the-scenes mini-documentaries about your favourite shows and stars, interviews and more.

And the cost? Absolutely free across the board. You’ll have to watch some ads during the shows on most of the services – that’s what helps pay for running them. But other than that, you can grab apps for all five networks, lie back on a comfy pillow in bed with your phone or tablet and binge on TV without ever having to turn the actual television on. Thanks, technology!

Let’s take a quick tour of the five networks’ streaming apps. We’re looking at all of these on iOS, but they’re available for Android as well; also for platforms like Apple TV, Xbox One, Playstation 4, numerous brands of smart TV, and many more. They’re all also accessible via a web browser on any PC whenever you like.

Seven – Plus7 Review

Seven – Plus7

The Seven Network’s app is still, for the time being at least, co-branded with vanishing online company Yahoo. It’s one of the veterans of the free-to-air streaming line-up, and the developers have refined it into a slick, sleek offering that covers the full range of the network’s channels and programming. It even brings viewers live streaming from their specialised horse racing channel, Racing.com. Covering 7two, 7mate and 7flix alongside the main channel, the app can stream any of the channels live any time you like. However, you’re always going to have to watch an ad or two before the live stream starts. That can be amusing when you come out of your mandatory ads to find yourself in a live ad break!

On-demand streaming is nicely organised, with all shows accessible via category, date or alphabetically. Most of what’s on offer is catch-up content, with the time limit usually 3-4 weeks before it expires. It’s perfect for catching up with episodes you’ve missed while away, but not necessarily entire seasons. There are exceptions, though – like the library of All Saints episodes, all 12 seasons of them.

What are 7Plus’ Best Features?

  • Easy In-App Browsing — Navigate through your favourite shows from A to Z whether you use the desktop or on your iOSAndroid devices
  • Live TV — Stream what’s currently airing across Seven’s channels
  • Resume Content Across Devices — Continue watching your favourite shows across multiple devices to resume content where and when you like
  • Personalised Recommendations — Discover new content with personalised recommendations for shows in our extensive on-demand catalogue
  • Access to Member-Exclusive Content — Access member exclusive content for shows before they go to air or are exclusive to 7plus

Nine – 9Now Review

Nine – 9Now

The Nine Network was fairly late to the party with its fully-fledged streaming app, but they’ve made up for it in terms of features and quality. There’s only one minor drawback – to watch anything at all you have to create a free account, either by logging in via Facebook or setting one up from scratch. In the earlier days of the app this became a bit of a pain as it constantly forgot the fact you were logged in, but this seems to have been fixed now.

Once signed in you can live-stream any of Nine’s channels – Nine, Gem, Go, and Life. The streaming quality is brilliant, easily the best out of all five networks. If you’re a fan of Nine’s extra channels and have a reasonably fast broadband connection, you’ll find the picture quality of the extra channels is superior to the broadcast version. In the world of streaming, everything can be HD if it needs to be!

There’s the full range of shows to browse through, mostly as catch-up and some with app-exclusive extras. And since you have to be signed in to an account, you can freely add stuff to your list to watch later or even get notifications about new episodes.

The app also supports Google’s Chromecast (and Chromecast-enabled TVs). You can stream the high-quality video this service offers directly to a screen that can show it off properly. If you’re a fan of series airing on Nine’s extra channels, we’d recommend you give this app a try as an alternative way of watching; with higher quality than what you’d get on regular TV.

What are 9Now’s Best Features?

  • Live Stream — Live stream your favourite shows, sports and news programs from Channel 9, 9Go! 9Gem and 9Life on your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or Chromecast
  • Resume Content Across Devices — Resume watching an episode from where you left off at any time from your iPhone, iPad, Apple TV or any other device using your Nine account

Ten – Tenplay Review

Ten – Tenplay

Ten’s veteran streaming app Tenplay is one of the longest-serving of them all. And while it’s never been all that great in terms of picture quality, the organisation of the service and apps has come a long way. Currently, you’re getting a lean, fast app that lets you find the show you want to watch seamlessly. And if you’re a fan of Ten’s flagship show Masterchef, there’s four full seasons here to view completely free any time you like – 247 episodes, to be precise – plus extras!

It’s pretty straightforward stuff all round, with the list of available shows noticeably shorter than the rival networks. However, it includes almost everything the network offers. Even the latest Formula One race.

All in all, the app is snappy and well made. It also comes with a comprehensive up-to-the-minute TV guide that covers all networks, not just Ten. Hence, it’s handy to see what’s on even if what you want to watch turns out to be on another network. Then again the Freeview FV app does a much better job at this, and also gives you direct access to Ten’s streams.

What are TenPlay’s Best Features?

  • 10Play Trending — Gives all the breaking news, latest scoops and hottest highlights
  • TV Reminder — Browse through the guide 1 week into the future and 1 week into the past which allows you to Set TV Reminders on future episodes of all channels and find catch up TV available on past episodes of Network Ten shows
  • Track a Show — Get notified when new episodes of your show are available online for catch up, and it gets automatically added to your playlist as well
  • Watchlist — Click ‘watch later’ on the episode you’re watching and all your videos will be waiting for you in your ‘Watchlist’

ABC – ABC iView Review

ABC – iView

There’s no user accounts or logins to deal with iView – not with the apps, anyway. On the web site, you can sign in with a free ABC account to keep track of your favourite shows and where you’re up to. But the smartphone and tablet apps are a little smarter than that, saving your watch list and show progress based on the unique ID of your device. That means you can download the app, add a bunch of shows to your personal watch list, and there they’ll stay – seemingly forever, unless you choose to remove them. We’ve got shows on the iOS iView app here that have remained on the watch list for many years. You know when you fire up the app that the latest episodes of the shows you want to see right now are going to be right there for you without hassle.

The apps are also blazingly fast. On a modern smartphone or tablet, that’s a given with all the free-to-air streaming apps, but iView is a cut above. Running it on an ancient iPad 2, it’s just as fast and responsive as it is on this year’s smartphones. The ABC’s app developers know their stuff well. And even as they add features the app never, ever gets bogged down.

The biggest complaint people have had with iView is the picture quality. For many years it was below standard definition, largely to try to keep costs under control. Lately, though, they’ve added a high quality option to apps on some platforms (such as PS4 and Apple TV) that delivers pretty decent picture quality, and HD is coming down the track. Chromecast is supported.

If you watch the ABC’s broadcasts you know they push iView pretty heavily, and there’s a lot of content available to stream. This includes complete seasons of shows before they even air on the network, exclusive to the app. It’s a must-have freebie that any fan of Australian television can’t be without.

What are ABC iView’s Best Features?

  • Dedicated Show Screens — Show Pages bring together all available series, episodes, extras, cast and guest information in the one place, making it easier for you to browse and search for specific shows
  • User-Friendly Interface — The new design brings it more in line with other popular ABC services such as the ABC News and ABC Listen apps
  • Simplified Search Tool — The updated Search Tool give out results that feature program titles only rather than a list of episodes
  • Accessibility Improvements — Improved accessibility of iView across web and mobile with support for voiceover and expanding text sizes

SBS – SBS On Demand Review

SBS – On Demand

Taking in content from their main channel along with sub-channels Viceland and NITV, SBS’s excellent On Demand service has been growing strong in recent years. The video quality of its streams is getting progressively better – it’s now close to full HD. Plus, the app is unique in its emphasis on a library of content, especially movies. There are hundreds of films available to stream for free on the service. And if you’re interested in the less mainstream side of cinema, there’s so much to watch you’ll be occupied for months.

A more recent change is the requirement of a user account to stream anything. It’s an annoyance, sure, but setting an account up is easy enough, and you can use Facebook to handle the details. Once logged in, all the stuff you bookmark to watch later, as well as your progress through the stuff you’ve been watching, is flawlessly saved across devices.

While it’s government-funded, SBS supplements its income with ads on its broadcast channels, and the same is true of the streaming service. Ads will be inserted into the program or movie you’re watching. They’re not too obnoxious, though they sometimes pop up mid-sentence in movies when the automation gets it wrong.

The sheer size of the catalogue of free stuff to watch here is incredible, though – free TV seasons and all. Furthermore, the mobile apps support Chromecast if you want to throw your latest find onto the big screen. As slick and content-rich as a paid streaming service, SBS On Demand’s only price to pay is the occasional interruption for ads. It still seems too good to be true!

SBS has also announced the upcoming launch of SBS World Movies, a free-to-air channel dedicated to international cinema. The movies, from European features to Bollywood charmers, will be in HD, making World Movies SBS’ third HD channel. With the addition of World Movies into SBS’ free-to-air channels, the movie lover in you will have something to be gleeful about starting July 2019. Moreover, the channel will broadcast 700 titles every year, including critically acclaimed movies from France, Norway, Belgium, China, India, and many more.

What are SBS On Demand’s Best Features?

  • Favourites — Start adding programs and movies to your favourites
  • Free Access to Shows in HD — Free, unlimited access to SBS content so you can watch your favourite shows when you want. Browse through an extensive catalogue of drama series, documentaries, movies, news, sport and more
  • Catchup — Continue watching shows from where you last left off

Summary: Keep on Streaming!

It’s taken a few years for the free-to-air networks to properly get their streaming apps up to par – well, except the ABC’s iView, which has been stellar from day one. But if you grab the five networks’ apps now (or visit their websites) you’ll find a huge amount of completely free streaming shows and movies that will give you many months of entertainment without paying a cent.

Unlike other countries, where even the free-to-air networks want some kind of payment for their online streaming, Australia’s got it good. In fact, your smartphone’s probably a better, more versatile TV than your actual television!

Frequently Asked Questions about Streaming TV

  • What is Streaming TV?

Since the birth of television, we’ve gotten all our TV via broadcasts – signals containing continuous TV channels sent out to anyone who can pick them up. Streaming TV is completely different – you choose what show or movie you want to watch from an app on your TV or a device, and it’s then sent to you via your broadband internet connection. It’s called “streaming” because you watch it as it’s being sent to you, rather than downloading it to watch later.


  • How Do You Stream to Your TV?

If you’ve got a recent model TV, it’s almost certainly what’s known as a “smart TV” – in other words, it can download and run apps. The most popular apps for smart TVs are those for streaming services, and that’s because it’s easy to just sit back and load up the app for your favourite service and start watching. But smart TV support for each streaming service varies, so if you’re watching a lot of it, the better option is to buy a dedicated streaming device like Telstra TV or Apple TV, or get a low-cost device called a Chromecast so you can send streaming TV to your screen from a phone or tablet app.


  • How do you Stream from an iPad, iPhone or Android Phone to a TV?

Streaming is really easy on modern smartphones and tablets, but not everyone wants to watch their shows and movies on a tiny screen. You can fix that easily with a small device made by Google called Chromecast. It plugs into a spare HDMI port on your TV, and connects to the same Wi-Fi network that your phone is on. Once it’s set up, all you need to do is load up your favourite streaming app – Netflix, Binge, Kayo and hundreds of others – and tap the little TV screen icon in the top right corner to connect to Chromecast. Then everything you play will stream direct to your TV.


  • Can You Stream from an iMac or PC to a TV?

If you’ve got a fairly recent model of Mac or PC, you’ll almost certainly find a HDMI video output socket on the back (or side, in the case of laptops) of the computer. If you have one of these, streaming direct to your TV is easy – just connect it to a spare HDMI input on your TV with a cable and switch to that input, then start streaming. Other computers may have different video connectors, such as Mini DisplayPort, USB-C or Thunderbolt; these can connect to your TV as well, but you’ll need a special adapter cable to do so. An easier option in those cases may be to use a Chromecast connected to the TV, sending video to it from the Google Chrome web browser.


  • How Do You Stream Netflix to a TV?

Of all the streaming services, Netflix is the one that almost every smart TV and streaming device supports – in fact, if you’ve bought a TV, disc player or streaming device recently, it’ll probably have a big red and white Netflix button on its remote control! All you need to do to stream Netflix on any TV is just load up the app and sign in with your account email and password – it’ll load up all your profiles, favourites and watch lists so you can pick up on the TV where you left off on the phone or PC.


  • Do I Need a Streaming Box with a Smart TV?

While you’ll find Netflix support on pretty much every smart TV, the other streaming services you can access on that TV will vary greatly depending on the brand, model and year of your TV. The much better solution if you’re streaming all the time is to buy a dedicated streaming box. These smart little devices plug into your TV via HDMI and act as a sort of “one-stop shop” for all the different streaming service apps, so you can stream from any of them from the one remote control. The best streaming boxes are the ones with the widest app support – with the Telstra TV and Apple TV at the top of the list. They’re both priced just above $200, but the Telstra TV can be had for $9 a month if you’re a Telstra customer, making it a great affordable streaming upgrade.


  • Is Foxtel Now the Same as Streaming TV?

While Foxtel Now offers plenty of shows and movies for you to watch on demand, its main purpose is to deliver Foxtel’s live TV channels to you as they’re broadcast – but via streaming rather than satellite. The way this is done is very much the same as other streaming services, except that each channel is its own separate never-ending live stream, and you switch between channels rather than choosing individual titles. It’s designed to behave just like regular TV does, but under the hood it’s a streaming service and as such, it performs best on a fast broadband connection.


  • How Much Data Does It Take to Stream TV?

All streaming TV uses an amount of download data on your broadband plan – so if you’ve got a monthly download limit, you’ll want to keep an eye on just how much data is being used. That amount varies greatly between different streaming services, but as a general guide, expect to use around 1GB per hour at standard definition, 3GB per hour at HD (high definition) and 7GB per hour at 4K Ultra HD quality. We’d recommend anyone who streams regularly get a broadband plan with unlimited data – they’re incredibly cheap now.


  • How Do You Stream Kayo to a Smart TV?

Innovative sports streaming service Kayo Sports is still working on apps for a wider range of smart TVs – at the moment, though, they only offer an app for Samsung TVs made in 2017 and later, and for TVs running the Android TV operating system (like Sony’s recent models). For any other TV, smart or not, you’ll need to use a streaming device, with the best ones for Kayo Sports being Telstra TV (which also lets you subscribe directly from the device) and Apple TV. Kayo also supports Chromecast so you can cast from your phone, but a current-model Chromecast is recommended for best results. Check out our guide for more suggestions.


  • How Do You Stream Foxtel Go to a TV?

Foxtel Go is the app for phones and tablets that’s designed for use by customers of both Foxtel satellite TV and Foxtel Now services. You can stream the live channels and on-demand content to a TV by using the new Foxtel app for LG and Samsung smart TVs, or by streaming from the mobile app to a Chromecast device. However, Foxtel satellite customers will need to add the Multiscreen pack to their account before streaming is possible. Foxtel Now customers can stream on up to two devices at the same time. They can also use the dedicated Foxtel Now box or Telstra TV to stream.


  • How Do You Stream ABC iView, SBS On Demand, 7plus and Others to a TV?

With the free-to-air streaming services – ABC iView, SBS On Demand, 7plus, 9now and 10play – you’ve got plenty of choices to watch on your TV, especially if it supports the “Freeview” standard. TVs that offer Freeview will display a banner when changing channels, letting you access that network’s streaming service with the tap of a coloured button. For easier browsing and streaming, though, almost all smart TVs include apps for all five of the free-to-air networks, as do the to streaming boxes like Telstra TV and Apple TV. All of these apps are completely free to use, though some require you to sign up for a free account, and all (except ABC iView) are supported by ad breaks during your streams.


  • Do Streaming Services Require a Lock-In Contract?

No. That’s one of the best things about all streaming services, including Foxtel Now – there is no need to agree to any sort of lock-in contract. You pay a month in advance for a month’s access and can cancel at any time. Even better, you can re-subscribe later and as long as it hasn’t been too long , you’ll find all your favourites and watch lists right where you left them.


  • Is There a Free Trial for Streaming Services?

The tradition with streaming TV has been to offer new customers a free trial period so they can see if they like what the service has to offer – but not all services have free trials. Most notably, Netflix and Disney Plus don’t offer a free trial at all anymore, so anyone signing up for the first time will have to pay for the first month up front. However, there are still plenty of free trials around, such as Foxtel Now (10 days), Binge (14 days), Kayo Sports (14 days), Amazon Prime Video (one month).


  • Can You Record Streaming TV?

Because it’s designed to be watched on demand, streaming services don’t give you the ability to record shows and movies to watch later. However, some services do allow you to download titles to a mobile phone or tablet to stream later without using the internet. This can be brilliant for when you’re travelling – load up your iPad or phone with some movies or a series, and you can watch them anywhere without incurring a massive mobile data bill. Streaming services that allow downloads include Netflix, Stan, Prime Video and Disney Plus.


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