Review was updated on 20 September, 2019
While paid streaming services have become part of the everyday TV viewing of millions of Australians, and free-to-air catch-up apps give easy access to network shows for a short time after they’ve aired, there’s been another popular type of streaming service that’s not made much of an impact in Australia – until now. The freebies.
Tubi Streaming Service Review
Probably the best known of the free streaming services actually predated Netflix in Australia – Sony Crackle. Its mission was simple – to offer content from the vast Sony entertainment catalogue to stream for free, supported by regular unskippable ad breaks. But Sony Crackle in Australia had a big problem – an extreme lack of content. Aside from regular episodes of endless soap opera Days of Our Lives, Crackle had little else aside from a handful of ancient Sony Pictures movies. It was quietly shut down in Australia in early 2019. It looked like free streaming was no match for the big, paid services.
What Makes Tubi Different?
Someone clearly forgot to tell the Crackle story to the team behind Tubi. Active in the USA since 2014, it’s grown there to become the largest independent video streaming service in the country – and that’s in a nation with lots of streaming options. Tubi boasts over 20 million active users on its free service, which may possibly have you wondering why you’ve neve heard of it before.
For the last five years Tubi has been steadily growing its profile in North America, gathering users at a startling rate for an ad-supported service. But until now, Tubi has remained available only in the USA and Canada – something that changed in late August when their first international expansion officially (and very quietly) launched. Yes, Tubi is now officially available in Australia – and yes, it’s still completely free.
What are Tubi’s Best Features?
Streaming TV & Movies Plans
- Service Only Plan
- 8 Content Genres
Min Cost - Depending on title
- Service Only Plan
- 1 Content Genres
- Service Only Plan
- 6 Content Genres
- Service Only Plan
- 7 Content Genres
What Can You Stream on Tubi?
Let’s get straight to the catch: while Tubi has agreements with MGM, Lionsgate, Paramount and Starz, you won’t be seeing much of their content on the Australian version of Tubi. That’s because the rights to those studios have already been snatched up by Stan and others, so while Tubi’s catalogue is technically global, there’s a lot that you won’t see when you load up the app here in Australia. In the US, there’s a range of both A-list and more obscure titles – Dances With Wolves and The Terminator sharing space with Charlotte’s Web and Rango. They’ve even got all 8 seasons of McLeod’s Daughters… and the original 1995 telemovie (which not even Nine-owned Stan has access to!) But in Australia, the better-known films and TV shows are largely absent – and you’d think that’s a bad thing. However, what lies within is a rabbit-hole of fascinating and often very obscure content – independent movies, wildly ambitious sci-fi movies, weird pseudo-sequels (Titanic 2!) and a whole bunch of low-budget disaster movies with titles designed to make you think you’re watching a similarly-named blockbuster (San Andreas Quake, or 2012: Doomsday). This is the motherlode of cheesy TV, and a lot of people are going to be hugely entertained by it.
It’s not all cheese, though. The rather excellent Sci-Fi Channel mini-series Tin Man is there (starring Zooey Deschanel from New Girl in a modern Wizard of Oz reboot), as is the star-packed Will Ferrell vehicle Stranger Than Fiction. Fans of classic Hollywood will find the wonderful Audrey Hepburn film Charade and Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. It’s the sort of service where you dig through the titles and start finding hidden gems.
But make no mistake, the current library is a shadow of Tubi’s US version. In time, hopefully they’ll start building the library with more content and better-known titles. There’s perhaps also an opportunity here, though, for Australian independent filmmakers to find a platform for their stuff, or for long-ignored classic Australian films to be seen again.
In the meantime, it’s a grab-bag of content that’s fun to have access to for those moments when you just feel like watching the unexpected.
What’s the Catch?
There’s no catch at all with Tubi – in fact, to use it you don’t even have to sign up for an account. You’re quite free to download the app and stream away without ever handing over your personal details. If you want to add stuff to your watch list, you’ll need a free account (which also lets the list sync between devices and the web site). However, Tubi’s apps for Apple TV and iOS support Apple’s TV-app features, meaning even without creating an account, you can pick up where you left off in a movie or series easily.
Tubi is ad-supported, very much like the free to air catch up apps are. But ad breaks are very short; Tubi claims 4 minutes an hour is the maximum amount of ads you’ll see, but with what seems to be only one or two advertisers in Australia currently, you’ll be seeing the same ad a lot (just like those Chemist Warehouse ads on SBS On Demand!)
Signing in with an account reduces the amount of ads you’re served up, according to Tubi, and that does seem to be the case, as we had hugely long ad-free sections of 45 minutes or more while watching Tin Man.
What Devices Does Tubi Support
Having had five years to develop apps before launching here, Tubi arrives with good platform support, with the highlight being its app for Apple TV. Fast, well designed and with surprisingly great quality streaming (considering Tubi is limited to 720p HD) they show the service in its best light. Of the other streaming devices, only Amazon Fire TV Stick has Australian support right now, but the Roku-based Telstra TV should get Tubi’s Roku app soon.
Both iOS and Android phones and tablets have Tubi apps, and all support Chromecasts of all shapes and sizes. Smart TVs from Samsung and Sony have native apps (and there’s an Android TV app for newer Sony models). And game console support is ready to go with apps for Xbox One, PS3 and PS4.
Tubi – The Pros and Cons
Tubi, Or Not Tubi?
There was no way we were making it to the end of this review without doing that line. And there’s no way you should pass up giving Tubi a quick install and taking a look from time to time. It’s the best kind of free – quite literally free to use without limits without even supplying an email address – and based on what the service has become in the US, in time it could become that extra streaming service you have around that’s got the stuff that’s not on Netflix. You’ve got nothing to lose by giving it a try – and remember, Titanic 2 awaits!