Many changes were expected in the Australian Video on Demand market over the following years. Here’s how we saw the options that were available to us when video streaming on demand was just starting to become a phenomenon.
The TV giant Foxtel dominated the Pay TV space with as many as 91 channels, and then put its might behind a Video on Demand service called Presto. Foxtel Presto, like Netflix, was a subscription based service at $9.99/month. At that reasonable price, users had access to the large Foxtel Presto media library, which contained a massive number of popular movie titles, and users could watch an unlimited number of movies each month. They could stream this content on their PCs, mobile devices, and even on their TVs (via Chromecast, on an HDMI TV). High speed broadband was, of course, a requirement for this service!
Presto also had a strong user community, which users turned to for movie recommendations as well as for movie-related gossip. As good as this service was, it wasn’t for everyone. Read the full presto review here.
Netflix hadn’t even officially entered the Australian market and yet was already making waves. One of the main reasons why Netflix was — and still is — so popular is its amazing range of content. Through special deals with media houses in the US and world over, they have had first broadcast rights to many shows and movies. On top of that, in recent years they have produced some incredibly popular Netflix original content that’s not available on Pay TV. Netflix definitely has, hands down, the best content. In the US, a Netflix subscription was available at $8.99/month. Even throwing in the price of a VPN or DNS unblocker that many Australians used to access Netflix, which cost about $5/month, Netflix remained a popular Video on Demand service for Australians.
Some people were hesitant to sign up for Netflix, because it fell into a legal grey area. Back in 2011, the Attorney-General, Robert McClelland had stated in an interview to The Australian, that it did not appear to violate copyright law in Australia. However, it may be a violation of US piracy laws.
With the launch of the Australian version of Netflix, most were happy to go with the new, easier option despite an initial lack of content compared to the US version.
Quickflix was touted as Australia’s answer to Netflix. Quickflix had a large library that stocked up-to-date movies as well as soaps. They signed some great content deals that let them provide content on par with the content offered by Foxtel. Even with all that, was it as good as Netflix?
A closer look at their plans reveals that Quickflix was serious about dominating the Australian market. Quickflix offered three distinct plans: the first plan was a Video on Demand streaming service that cost $9.99/month. At $9.99/month, users got access to Quickflix movies and shows on their internet connected devices, with a maximum of three streams being active at a time. This meant that three people could watch three different things at one time — nobody had to fight over the remote anymore. And you didn’t even need a Smart TV — connecting a Chromecast dongle to any HDMI enabled TV allowed you to stream movies directly to your TV. The second plan was a DVD & Blu-ray rental service that cost $12.99/month. This plan allowed users to get DVDs and Blu-ray discs delivered to their mailbox for free. Users could request 3 DVDs/Blu-ray discs at one time and swap them out for new ones any time they liked. The combo plan cost $19.99/month and combined the services of the first two plans. Read the full Quickflix review here.
Since then, Quickflix has moved over to the disc-by-mail service almost completely, for $20/month.
Google Play, backed by the internet giant Google, was also trying to find a foothold in the Australian market. On their service a new movie cost $25 to buy and $7 to rent. TV shows cost as much as $3.50 per episode and a steep $32.50 per season. Google Play does offer some free content occasionally, like a free TV show episode or two and a movie now and again. On the other hand, Google Play (much like iTunes) offered a music library with the latest albums — something most of the other Video on Demand operators didn’t. Google Play also let users stream content to their Android devices. This content can be accessed when users are on the move or not connected to the internet.
Google Play thrives today with their music store now a streaming service and their video store the default for all Android users looking for current releases.
Australians could also use iTunes for their Video on Demand needs, but just like Google Play, Apple’s Video on Demand services didn’t come cheap. A movie was $7 to rent and $25 to own, while a single episode of a show cost $3.50 and a full season cost $33. While some thought it was not feasible to use iTunes as a regular source of entertainment, it was a good option if a single movie or two per month was what was required.
Apple’s iTunes, apart from new movies and TV shows, also carries some cult classics. And like Google Play, iTunes let users buy the latest music.
Apple also had started selling a pretty cool Apple TV device that let you access iTunes and more on your TV, turning an ordinary TV into an entertainment centre for just $100. Alternatively you could use AirPlay to directly stream from any iOS device to your TV.
Since then, Apple has become a fierce competitor in movies and TV with the iTunes Store, and launched Apple Music to compete with Google Play and Spotify in that field.
Some Australians might think of a monthly contract as a drain on resources. Instead, they might prefer to pay for movies and shows as they watch them. EzyFlix was, perhaps, aiming to target this demographic.
Ezyflix did not need users to sign a monthly contract. Instead, users could just explore their library and download any content they liked on a PPV basis or even buy it outright. A movie could be rented at $3.99 and bought at $8.99, while an episode cost about $2.99. Compared to Google Play and iTunes, Ezyflix was a bargain.
Ezyflix was planning to lure more users in the future by introducing products like a Smart TV service and a gaming console, but, sadly they shut down in mid-2015, unable to compete in the new streaming market.
Which is the Best Video On Demand Service in Australia?
At the time, we said that Quickflix was the best Video on Demand service provider in the market. It had all the latest content delivered in high quality for a cheap price. Some also preferred Ezyflix, as it let users buy content outright. Each service had its merits and demerits — it all came down to personal preference.
There was stiff competition in Video on Demand market at the time, with no player clearly dominating the market. This competition however, heralded winds of change for Australians. Ultimately, it kept Video on Demand prices low, and forced service providers to bring new content to Australian consumers much faster.