The SVOD Files: Who's Best When It Comes to Streaming TV Content?


Best Streaming TV Services Reviewed

Who has the best content & what features should you care about?

 
 

The Growth of Australian SVOD Providers

The Australian movie and TV scene has changed dramatically in the space of a few short months. Not very long ago, we had the choice of Free To Air (FTA), Foxtel, and the local video shop. Then, over the space of a couple of years, a number of online services started to arise.

At first, they offered not much more than an alternative to the local video shop, except that you could browse and order on-line, and, in a couple of days, a disc would arrive in your mailbox. Gradually, true on-line rental / purchase/ download options came along, which offered instant gratification (as long as your broadband package had enough data quota and bandwidth to support the several GB required for each title you selected).

Now we truly live in the age of Subscription Video On Demand (SVOD), with several providers offering low cost monthly subscriptions to instantly access a huge library of TV and Movie titles. The challenge facing the viewer has shifted from browsing the TV guide to see what’s on which channel and when, to deciding which SVOD service(s) to subscribe to and get instant access to whatever you want (within the limits of their respective libraries).

Which SVOD Service is Best for you?

Netflix of Australia, Stan, as well as Presto and Quickflix all offer an “all you can watch” package for a low monthly subscription fee. There are no long-term contracts, so you are free to come and go from each service as you please, at any time. Quickflix is a little different from the other providers, in that in addition to their “all you can watch” library, they also offer “pay per view” rentals of “Premium” content, such as late-release movies and blockbuster TV series. (Rentals are available as digital downloads, or as mail-order discs.) Netflix, Stan and Presto do not offer a pay-per-view option, and each service only carries a limited range of latest-release titles.

In addition to the SVOD services, there are a number of other sources for acquiring video content, such as Fetch TV, Google Play, and Apple’s iTunes. Fetch TV is a subscription TV service, which also offers movie rentals for on-demand download, while Google Play and iTunes offer movies and TV series for rent or purchase.

But, with so many options available, how do you choose which SVOD service is best for you?

Everyone will find a different match of titles to suit their tastes on each of the various providers. Sitting down with my family, I made a list of over 60 titles that suited our collective tastes. Some titles were recent / current releases (including a sampling of the hits that each SVOD service promotes strongly), some were older movies / TV series from the 1990s / 2000s, and a few were “golden oldies” dating back as far as the 1960s / 1970s, or even older.

And this is what we found…

 
 

Available Content

 
Firstly browse our viewing list (we use this as the criteria from which to score all the providers) – it includes the likes of Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Better Call Saul, Dallas Buyers Club and Divergent to name a few.

 

Of the three “pure” SVOD services, Netflix and Stan seemed to have a broadly comparable range of “hits” and “misses”, with Presto running a distant third (to our tastes). Each of the three services had some content that couldn’t be found elsewhere, and shared some content with at least one other service, while there were quite a few titles on our list which couldn’t be found on any of them.

Netflix AU had 29% of the movies we looked for and 43% of the TV series, for an overall “Hit” rate of 38%; Stan had 29% and 29% respectively (for an overall “Hit” rate of 29%), while Presto had 25% and 12% respectively (17% overall “Hit” rate).

Quickflix scored fairly well, with 33% and 40% respectively (38% overall “Hit” rate), but 2/3 of the Quickflix “Hits” were “Premium” offerings (including almost all of our “must-see” titles), meaning a one-off rental fee is incurred on top of your monthly subscription. For our tastes, Quickflix would quickly end up costing us more than either Netflix or Stan to watch the kind of content we are looking for.

The three online rental services that we looked at (Fetch TV, Google Play and iTunes) all scored significantly better on available “Hits” (although Fetch TV only offers movie rentals, not TV series), but every title incurs a one-off rental or purchase fee. Fetch TV had 79% of the movies and 0% of the TV series (overall Hit rate of 29%), Google Play had 100% of the movies and 71% of the TV series (overall Hit rate of 82%), and iTunes was best of all with 100% of the Movies and 83% of the TV series (overall Hit rate of 89%). The very high availability of late-release movies and TV services for direct download rental, with no standing subscription fees, makes these services very attractive sources for “topping up” your “all you can watch” subscription service with the occasional rental of a late release movie, or a must-see TV series that isn’t offered by your preferred subscription service.

(For a closer look at the full range of SVOD & VOD services, click here)

Netflix

 

Movies 29%

 

TV Shows 43%

 

Hit Rate 38%

 
 

Stan

 

Movies 29%

 

TV Shows 29%

 

Hit Rate 29%

 
 

Presto

 

Movies 25%

 

TV Shows 12%

 

Hit Rate 17%

 
 

Quickflix

 

Movies 33%

 

TV Shows 40%

 

Hit Rate 38%

 
 
 

Ease & Quality of Viewing

 

All of the services which we looked at have free downloadable apps for ease of viewing on mobile devices (including iPhone and iPads, Android phones and tablets etc), although the Fetch TV app is a “companion” to the Fetch set top box which is required for access to the service. Support for other mobile devices (Windows Phone, Blackberry, etc), computers and Smart TVs varies between providers, and this can be a barrier to convenient use, depending on the devices available to you.

In my household, virtually all of our TV and movie watching is done on our 55” Smart TV, with a small amount being watched on our second TV (also a Smart internet-connected model) or portable devices. For us, the ease and quality of watching on the big screen is of paramount importance, and mobile viewing is definitely a secondary consideration.

Netflix is the clear winner here, with native support for pretty well any internet-connected device, including Smart TVs, phones and tablets, Chromecast, Apple TV, computers, etc. Netflix also has the unique offering of a selection of 4k UHD content to 4k Smart TVs, and is therefore one of the very few available sources of 4k content if you have recently bought a 4k TV. We were able to access Netflix seamlessly in HD on all of our devices, including casting from the tablet app to a Chromecast plugged into our TV. The most convenient and most-used option of all for us is to watch via the Netflix app on our Fetch TV STB, as this fully integrates Netflix into all of our other viewing (FTA, subscription TV, catch-up TV, and movie rentals).

I will mention here that there are a number of late-model Smart TVs for which support for Netflix Australia is lacking. This is rather surprising, as the same models support Netflix in other regions. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether these TVs will regain Netflix access by a firmware update by the manufacturer, or whether they are considered beyond “end of life”. If your Smart TV is unable to access Netflix AU via a native app, you may need to consider purchase of a Chromecast or other Smart media hub – Chromecast being by far the cheapest option to add Netflix (and other internet connectivity) to any TV with a free HDMI port.

Stan is currently accessible via Android or iOS mobile device, or web browser on a PC, and casting to Chromecast or Apple TV is supported, but there are as yet no native apps for Smart TVs . Full HD is supported on compatible devices. Options for viewing on the big screen are therefore to cast to a Chromecast from a mobile device, AirPlay to an Apple TV, or use a HDMI cable from your computer to the TV.

 
 

stan

 
 

Stan can be cast to Chromecast making viewing on your TV simple. Photo: Supplied

 
 

The Chromecast option is a lot “tidier”, but does require the purchase of a cheap Chromecast dongle, and some people will consider this to be a barrier. (Personally, I think Chromecast is a “must-have” accessory, as it provides cheap access to a huge range of streaming media, both video and audio, for which you may have no “native apps” on your entertainment system.) The HDMI cable option is awkward, unless your living room is already set-up with a media computer connected to your TV. Stan is therefore at a relative disadvantage to Netflix with respect to “ease of use”, at least until a wider range of native apps is made available.

Presto, like Stan, only supports primary casting from your mobile device or web browser, but again, Chromecast is supported. However, the killer issue for me is that Presto only streams in Standard Definition, and I believe that this is simply not good enough for a subscription TV service in the 21st century.

Quickflix provides native HD support on almost as many devices and performs as Netflix, so comes as a close second for “ease of access” on the big screen. Quickflix also offers a Blu-Ray / DVD rental service, so it arguably provides access to the best possible content quality, at the expense of “delayed gratification” while you wait for the the disc to arrive in the mail. (For our family, streaming HD is “good enough” on our 55” TV.)

Fetch TV provides access to your movie rentals (and Netflix) through the Fetch STB, which will already be connected to your TV, so there are no issues of connectivity.

Both Google Play and iTunes require a user account to their respective stores; if you are already an iOS or Android user, you will likely have an account and a suitable primary phone or tablet device to browse and select content, but you may need to purchase a Chromecast or Apple TV to “catch” the content and display it on the big screen. Chromecast is cheaper, but Apple TV provides the legendary consistent Apple experience for those who are already invested in the Apple ecosystem. Our household has both iOS and Android devices, and we find that Chromecast suits us very well, being fully compatible with both platforms and allowing access to a wider range of media sources. (Some services do not yet fully support Apple TV.)

Bottom line

 

best TV Streaming services

 
 

Netflix easily wins the “Could Grandma work it?” test as well, as it is fully supported on most Smart TVs. Photo: Supplied

 
 

For our family, Netflix is the clear winner, giving us Full HD and ease of access on all of our devices and TVs, and being fully integrated into our Fetch STB. We can supplement our Netflix viewing with occasional one-off rental or purchase of “must see” titles via Google Play, iTunes or Fetch TV, but we haven’t actually done any rentals since we got Netflix, as we’re not running out of included subscriber content yet. Netflix easily wins the “Could Grandma work it?” test as well, as it is fully supported on most Smart TVs.

For households without Fetch TV, both Netflix and Stan offer a comparable amount of HD content, and both would be well worth looking at, especially if the issues of casting to a Chromecast or similar do not concern you. Depending upon your viewing preferences, a Stan / Google Play combo might be a better match than Netflix / Fetch.

Quickflix may appeal for the convenience of being able to access both “Regular” and “Premium” content from a single source. However, if you are prepared to watch the bulk of your content from an “all you can watch” subscription service, supplemented with occasional rentals from another source, better value can be found elsewhere. For our viewing tastes, Quickflix would work out to be more expensive, given the high proportion of “Hits” that require an additional one-off rental fee to access.

By our assessment, Presto is in last place. It is more expensive than Netflix or Stan (if you want access to both Movies and TV), had the lowest “Hit” rate for our selections, and, most importantly, only carries SD content. I find it difficult to recommend Presto over either Netflix or Stan, unless you find that the bulk of your preferred viewing is hosted on Presto.

(Footnote: Interestingly, the infamous “Dallas Buyers Club”, which is at the heart of the current legal case in pursuit of unauthorised downloaded torrents, is available on all of the SVOD sources I looked at!)

 

Recommended

Related Offers

14 Day Free Trial
on the Basic plan with 1 genres of content
$25/mth
No contract
Try DocPlay for the first 30 days for free
on the Monthly Subscription plan with 6 genres of content
$6.95/mth
No contract
30-day free trial
on the Monthly Subscription plan with 7 genres of content
$6.99/mth
No contract
1 Month Free Trial
on the Monthly Subscription plan with 4 genres of content
$9.99/mth
No contract
14 Day Free Trial
on the Premium plan with 1 genres of content
$35/mth
No contract
30 day free trial
on the Monthly Subscription plan with 3 genres of content
$6.99/mth
No contract
30-day free trial
on the Basic plan with 7 genres of content
$10/mth
No contract
30-day free trial
on the Standard plan with 7 genres of content
$14/mth
No contract