It may have come from humble beginnings, but reality TV is big business in the 21st century, with dozens upon dozens of shows — and their spin-offs — loyally followed by millions of fans every week. The problem for Australian reality fans up until now has been actually finding these shows — some are buried in late-night TV listings, some are only available on Foxtel, and some are never seen here at all. hayu changed all that, with a streaming service dedicated only to reality TV, top to bottom, up to date and on demand.
While its origins may have been in competition shows, these days the big business in reality is the “slice of life” series, based around either a celebrity and their daily trials and tribulations, or a group of “ordinary” people doing what they do. That’s the theory, at least — but as Survivor realised early on, the thing that keeps people coming back for more is personal drama and conflict. We want to get a glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous. Whether we’re talking about a group of upper-class housewives in the Real Housewives franchise, a British girl group trying to make it in the cut-throat US music business or a fierce contest between beauty queens, hair stylists, or even tattoo artists, drama will always keep fans engaged.
It’s easy enough to be dismissive of the entire reality genre for its “creative” editing, deliberate attempts to create drama rather than just observe it, and for the turning of ordinary people into “characters” with fanatical followings. But there’s no denying that it’s a hugely popular phenomenon that’s showing no signs of slowing down — the sheer volume of shows on offer from hayu is testament to that, and this is only one studio’s offerings.
What Makes hayu Unique?
hayu is owned by the giant NBC Universal group, and as such, you’ll only find shows on hayu that they have the rights to. That means you won’t find the latest season of Survivor here, or The Amazing Race, or Hell’s Kitchen, all of which belong to other studios.
The dominant force on hayu is the “observational drama” type of show. You can watch the Real Housewives shows — all of them, dating back to the 2006 original. Keeping Up with The Kardashians is available, as well as its many spin-offs. Million Dollar Listing is there for the property-minded, while Mel B: It’s A Scary World follows the life of a former Spice Girl. The Platinum Life follows seven women on their journeys through the Los Angeles music scene, while Love & Hip Hop takes music makers and turns them into leads in their own romantic dramas. And how could you resist Ice Loves Coco, where we follow the lives of rapper/actor Ice T and his swimsuit-model wife? A contender for weirdest competition show, by the way, has to go to Bridalplasty: “12 brides compete to go under the knife before their big day”! Even more important, a lot of shows are available the same day as in the US, so you don’t have to worry about spoilers. You can even download episodes on your devices and watch anytime. That means watching an episode while you’re on your way to work without burning through your mobile data!
There’s something here for every taste — with shows like Below Deck, The Jury Speaks, Botched (yes, more plastic surgery!), hit show Vanderpump Rules, and Hollywood Medium. There’s no shortage of reality programming. Plus, hayu’s been steadily adding new content since launch to keep subscribers glued to the screen.
The overarching pink graphical theme on hayu’s site and apps is no accident. They know their market and are aiming straight for it. It’s designed along the same lines as a gossip magazine — to keep you coming back.
hayu also links itself closely to social media, offering easily shareable clips from the various shows, as well as the ability to rate each episode with a cute emoji. There’s a “join the conversation” button at the bottom of every playback screen, too, inviting you to add your comments about the episode you’re currently watching.
What Does hayu Give You for Your Money?
There’s only one subscription package for hayu — they keep things nice and simple and give you everything they have to offer for the one price, without having to worry about quality tiers and so on..
|Hayu Monthly Subscription||$6.99||
It’s an increasingly crowded field in the Australian streaming business, and we’re pretty sure hayu recognised that early on. Australians have always been hungry, early adopters of new technological marvels, and the incredible rise of Netflix’s customer base into the millions here — in less than a year — shows that’s still the case. Many people are subscribed to both Stan and Netflix. So having another new player come along asking for a monthly fee might seem a bit too much for some.
hayu’s clearly aware of that. They currently operate in the UK, Ireland, and Australia — and here’s the good news — they’re substantially cheaper here than in those two other countries, as well as offering more device support than anywhere else. The UK and Ireland pay the equivalent of $7.50/month for hayu, while we can have it for $6.99/month. Obviously, a service streaming only reality TV isn’t for everyone, but if this is your television genre of choice, hayu is an absolute bargain. Plus, hayu makes for a great companion to services like Stan and Netflix, even if you don’t want all the reality shows on offer. We all have our favourites!
The usual free 30-day trial is available. You can sign up either via the website (paying by credit card) or using the iOS/Android apps (paying using iTunes or Google Play credit). With iTunes gift cards routinely available at 10-20% off, paying that way can take the price down to under 6 bucks a month.
The hayu User Experience
We tested hayu on iOS, using both a modern iPhone and an older iPad. On the phone, the app was quick and graphically rich. On the much older iPad, it struggled with the large amount of graphics that needed to load as we scrolled around the various pages. It’s still usable, but can be frustratingly slow. The iPad interface is great, though, so owners of newer iPads will be well pleased.
If you’re unsure about whether your device is up to the challenge, note that you can download the app for free. Unusual for a streaming service, you can also browse the catalogue and the various sections of the app before you even create an account.
The Apple TV app, meanwhile, is slick, fast and easy to use — with the main downside being the solid pink hayu logo that sticks in the corner of the screen on every single show that you watch! Both phone and tablet apps support Chromecast for casting to your TV — so you’re not just restricted to the small screen.
hayu fully supports high definition for shows made in that format — which is virtually all of them here — and if you’ve got the broadband speed to cope with it, you can stream full 1080p HD to your browser window, device screen, or to your TV.
We tested out the HD support for both AirPlay and Chromecast, and both worked perfectly — with some differences. With AirPlay, the video started almost immediately after pressing play, but in extremely low resolution. It then increased its resolution in stages until it reached full 1080p HD. It’s a similar system to the one Netflix uses, and presumably is able to drop back down to lower quality if there’s any streaming problems. With Chromecast, after pressing play there’s a fairly hefty delay while the show loads and starts buffering. But once it lands on your screen, it’s 1080p HD right from the start.
Picture quality is extremely good. hayu seems, based on what we saw, to be using a lower bitrate for HD than Netflix or Stan. That means that more people on marginal broadband connections should be able to enjoy the shows at full quality. Sure, it’s not as “Blu-ray-like” as the 1080p streams from the big players, but it’s plenty good enough.
Perhaps to help keep the data usage low, most of the shows come only with mono audio — a strange decision, but again, one which has little impact on the content. We had no problems with buffering, stalling, or any other streaming issues, not surprising given the low bitrate (and the fibre connection we were streaming with).
Older episodes of shows such as Real Housewives, though, were a bit more problematic. Reality TV was late to the HD party. First, HD cameras had to get small and portable enough to make it possible. So shows made before 2008-2009 are very likely to only be available in SD. The issue here is that at least some of these older episodes have been encoded as a small stretched “widescreen” image inside a square box inside the HD widescreen frame. End result: tiny image and horizontally stretched people. Hopefully it’s just a technical glitch that will get ironed out down the track. These older shows do have stereo audio, by the way. Subtitles are available for pretty much everything and work perfectly when casting to a TV as well.
Streaming TV & Movies Plans
How to Access hayu
hayu’s app support has been expanding slower than many might like, though they had the all-important Apple TV and Fetch platforms covered early — along with Chromecast support. More recently, hayu added support for the Telstra TV and the Amazon Fire TV stick, making it easy for a vast number of people to get hayu shows onto the TV for an end-of-the-day binge.
Interestingly, the minimum iOS version that the app requires on your iPhone or iPad is now iOS 10. Android similarly requires a relatively recent OS, version 4.4. For iOS it’s really not that much of an imposition — iPhone and iPad users tend to keep up to date with the latest OS for their device, and iOS 10 supports everything back to the iPhone 5. Android users may find things more difficult, depending on what Android OS is available for their device. Check the table below for a quick list of compatible devices.
As a side note, the download feature makes it great for mobile devices. If you enjoy streaming on your commute to work, during a work break, or pretty much whenever you’re out and about, the service has you covered. Simply download the episode/s you want to see when on WiFi and enjoy it anytime.
hayu is available on a modest range of popular devices.
|Device||Does it work?|
|Amazon Fire TV Stick||Yes|
|Amazon Kindle Fire||Yes|
|Computers (PC/Mac)||Yes (Chrome/Firefox/Safari/Edge)|
A Healthy Dose of Reality
hayu represents a new phase of the streaming video phenomenon in Australia. It’s a content creator grabbing up all the shows in a particular genre, packaging them and selling the lot to a ready-made audience, cutting out the middle-man in the process. They’ve done an excellent job with the service. And as more and more content gets added, there’s going to be more reality TV here than even the most determined binge-watcher could possibly get through. Plus, the price simply can’t be argued with.
Sure, it’s not a one-stop shop for your favourite shows. But if it’s reality TV that keeps you glued to the couch, there’s enough on hayu to keep you there.