It caught a lot of people by surprise, but the recent news that Foxtel had bought out their partner Seven West Media (owners of the Seven free-to-air network) in their share of the Presto streaming service was closely followed by another announcement – that Presto would be shutting down on January 31st, 2017. Coming only months after an extensive advertising campaign (featuring Mulholland Drive star Naomi Watts) attempting to attract new customers, it showed how volatile the new world of on-demand streaming is in Australia right now.
There was probably never really enough room for three on-demand streaming services in a country the size of Australia, and with Netflix the undisputed king – and newcomer Stan doing much better than expected – Presto found itself in a tough place. They didn’t have the rights to a lot of stuff people wanted to watch, and they had to share those streaming rights with Foxtel itself – so, for example, an HBO show like The Sopranos would have to get removed from Presto so it could stream on Foxtel’s Anytime service. They had lots of subscribers, but so many of them were getting the service for free via bundles or promo codes that it was never going to be viable as a real competitor in a market that wasn’t Foxtel’s forte.
What Does It Mean For You?
First up, the bad news. If you’ve been enjoying Presto’s movies and TV shows – or even just dropping in occasionally for the headline stuff like Mr Robot – your account and your “watch list” of stuff you haven’t gotten around to yet, is all gone as of January 31 2017.
The good news is that you will be able to keep watching the shows and movies you’ve been enjoying on Presto over the past couple of years thanks to Foxtel Play. Oh, yes – and you’ll be able to stream every episode of Game of Thrones as it goes to air, almost certainly in high definition!
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Your Presto Account
As of January 31 2017, the service has shut down completely. Money-wise, Presto should have stopped charging you on this date and closed your account automatically.
If you have any unused Presto vouchers, you can redeem them to get the Foxtel Play Pop pack FREE for the first 3 months. This is only available to customers with an unused Presto voucher who become new residential Foxtel Play customers before 31 July, 2017.
Goodbye Presto, Hello Foxtel Play!
Here’s the good news: the reason Presto went bye-bye is because Foxtel decided that – instead of competing with Netflix and Stan directly – they’re going to upgrade the online version of the service they’re famous for.
On a practical note, what this means is that the shows and movies you’ve enjoyed on Presto are now available for streaming on demand through Foxtel Play’s “Anytime” feature. As well as the content they air on Foxtel itself. All streamed on the your device of choice.
This has always been possible, to a large extent, if you paid for a Foxtel Play subscription. But with Presto’s licenses moving back into the Foxtel fold, big changes have come through in both the pricing and content – making Foxtel Play a brilliant replacement for Presto.
Firstly, the content. That problem of your favourite HBO shows suddenly disappearing from your streaming list is about to end, thanks to the new deal that Foxtel has closed with the US network. Now, they’ll be able to have the entire “box set” of seasons available for streaming all the time. So when you kick off your Sopranos binge week you can be confident that all the episodes will be there all the way through to the end.
And now the cost. Presto was only $15 a month, and Foxtel Play was $50 – or more, if you want access to the good stuff. But now Foxtel Play offers packages from as low as $10/month – without a contract.
The New Pricing
Starting on December 1st, you’ll be able to sign up for Foxtel Play and pick one of five base “Genre” channel packages. Three of those cost only $10/month – Lifestyle, Docos and Kids. The other two will get the attention of anyone who loves high-quality television; there’s the Drama pack and the Pop pack, each available for $15/month (or you can have both for $25). Both of these packs include full access to the Showcase channel – otherwise known as “the one with Game of Thrones”! The Drama pack is more seriously-oriented with its BBC, National Geographic and History Channel content, while the Pop pack includes Comedy Channel and SyFy. But both Drama and Pop give you that sweet HBO access, streamable any time you want, live or on demand, for a bargain price.
On top of those base packs you can choose to add sports or movies at $29 and $20 respectively. You no longer need to pay for a $25 general entertainment channel pack to access them.
What About HD?
Presto originally launched as a standard-definition-only service, and upgraded to HD in 2015. The new Foxtel Play runs on the same platform as Presto, but is still only SD. The good news is that Foxtel has confirmed an HD upgrade for Foxtel Play in early 2017 – it’s already accessible on the Telstra TV set top box. So now you can access Game of Thrones for a mere $15/month in crisp HD – a big win for fans of that show as well as the many other excellent offerings on Showcase and other channels.
Can I Carry My Presto Account Over to Foxtel Play?
Sadly, no. With the launch of Foxtel Play 1 December 2016, all Presto subscribers were offered the chance to switch over to Foxtel Play. But this transfer did not take place automatically. If you didn’t make the transfer happen before January 31 2017, then the sad news is that your account is gone.
Will I Be Able to Watch on My HDTV?
As part of the Foxtel Play revamp, Foxtel has a new device in the wings – a cheap, tiny box to plug directly into your TV to let you browse Foxtel Play’s content and stream in to your big-screen TV in HD. Not much is yet known about exactly what form it will take. But once it launches, you’ll have easy, low-cost streaming access to the best of Foxtel on your big screen for the first time.
It’s a huge win for fans of quality streaming television, and if it all plays out well, is going to be a big win for Foxtel as well. Presto was an interesting experiment that delivered some superb content to subscribers, but the new Foxtel Play looks likely to outdo it by becoming not only the go-to streaming service for quality TV, but also something you can turn to at the end of the day to relax and see what’s on that might surprise you.
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