Review was updated on 29 September, 2020
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.
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.
In this Review
What is Tubi?
Tubi boasts over 20 million active users on its free service, which may possibly have you wondering why you’ve never heard of it before. Don’t worry – it’s a relatively new service in Australia, and the word of mouth is still getting around.
For the last six years, Tubi has been steadily growing its profile in North America, gathering users at a startling rate for an ad-supported service. But until recently, Tubi was available only in the USA and Canada – something that changed in late 2019 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.
In April of 2020, Tubi was acquired worldwide by Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation, a purchase that cost nearly half a billion dollars. The results are already being seen on Tubi both in the US and here, with more high-quality content being added to the service – which remains completely free to use.
What TV Shows and Movies are on Tubi?
Let’s get straight to the catch: while Tubi has agreements with MGM, Lionsgate, Paramount and Starz for certain content in North America, you won’t be seeing much of their stuff on the Australian version of Tubi. That’s because the rights to those studios have already been snatched up by other streaming services, most notably Stan. 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 Hunger Games sharing space with Adaptation and Hacksaw Ridge. They’ve even got all 8 seasons of McLeod’s Daughters… and the original 1995 telemovie the famous series was based on (which not even Nine-owned Stan has access to!) For a free service, it’s delivering the sort of quality mix you’d see on Prime Video, only with Tubi it’s supported by unskippable ad breaks.
But in Australia, the big-name 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. Stanley Kubrick’s searing war movie Full Metal Jacket is here, alongside Wesley Snipes in Blade II and Bruce Lee’s martial arts classic Fist of Fury. Fans of classic Hollywood will find the wonderful Audrey Hepburn film Charade and Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. Or if you want to check out what Anna Faris and John Krasinski were up to in 2007, there’s the stoner comedy Smiley Face. 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 (indeed, Tubi US has the classic Aussie music comedy Starstruck, director Gillian Armstrong’s second film – and totally unavailable in the country where it was made!)
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.
Tubi vs Netflix, BINGE, Prime Video and Stan
You’ve probably already guessed that there’s not going to be a fair fight between a free service like Tubi and paid ones like the big four competing streaming services. But compare we must – after all, we’re now seeing the free-to-air networks’ apps move away from “catch-up” to start offering loads of new shows and movies, also supported by ads. Tubi is currently serving a very niche audience – one which is tired of the same old mainstream stuff and wants to find something different to watch, and that’s just fine. But with Fox’s involvement, don’t be too surprised if we start seeing the Tubi catalogue start to get populated with more familiar titles – it’s already started.
One advantage of Tubi is that 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 TV’s-app features, meaning even without creating an account, you can pick up where you left off in a movie or series easily.
Unlike Netflix, BINGE, Prime and Stan, Tubi’s ad-supported design means unskippable ad breaks just like on the free to air catch up apps. 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!) On quite a few things, we saw no ads at all.
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 a mini-series.
Compatible Devices and Apps
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, Android TV based devices can access Tubi (including Sony smart TVs as well as stand-alone streaming boxes like Vodafone TV and the Foxtel Now box) and Telstra TV now has an app as well. Samsung and HiSense smart TV users will also find an app for their screen ready to download.
Both iOS and Android phones and tablets have Tubi apps, and all support Chromecasts of all shapes and sizes. And game console support is ready to go with apps for Xbox One, PS3 and PS4.
Tubi Plans and Pricing
You can’t do better than a pricing plan that comes down to a single word – “free”. That’s the start and the end of it – Tubi won’t cost you a single cent to use, aside of course from the internet data usage and your electricity or batteries. There’s no paid subscription tier and, as far as we’re aware, nothing of the sort is planned. Tubi’s slotting into that “free streaming” niche where the free-to-air apps dominate, free competing against free in a battle where the customer always wins!
Last audited 27 October 2020
How to Contact Tubi
As a global company, the best way to contact Tubi is via their web site (the same address you go to watch Tubi’s stuff in your web browser) and click the “Contact” link at the bottom of the page to get access to a support form where you can get any issues looked into.
Review Summary – Is Tubi Worth It?
With no cost to use it and no need to even give away your personal details, you should definitely give Tubi a quick install and take a look from time to time to see what’s new. It’s the best kind of free – quite literally free to use without limits – 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!
What People are Asking about Tubi
While downloading for playback on the go is incredibly handy for those who don’t want to blow their mobile data limits while out and about, Tubi as yet does not offer the ability to download titles to your devices. It’s sure to be a feature coming in the future, though.
Yes – but you’ll need to set them on the Tubi web site, and you will need to have created a free account to do so. Just click your name in the top right corner of the site and then click “Parental Controls”. If you want to set limits for the kids’ devices while not restricting your own, it’s best to create separate accounts for each.
No, not at this stage – every account is a single profile that has access to everything on Tubi (unless restricted by parental controls). Those wanting their own watch list and history can get both simply by creating their own account.
Officially, no – like all streaming services, Tubi uses “geolocation” to determine what country you’re in and serve you content licensed for your region. However, Tubi accounts are global – and so if it thinks you’re in the US when you sign in, you’ll see US content. The various “smart DNS” services like GetFlix can be very handy for this.
That is the question!
Tubi’s official recommendation is that you have a connection with an absolute minimum of 1 Mbps, but ideally 4 Mbps or more for smooth streaming. These are very low numbers that mean Tubi should stream perfectly on almost any internet connection – even ADSL – and use very little data.