Streaming TV in Australia: Compare Services and Find Amazing Deals

Only a few short years ago, you could have mentioned streaming TV to almost anyone and scored a blank look in return.

Aside from a group of (reportedly) several hundred thousand people who were using internet trickery to watch Netflix from the USA, streaming wasn’t even on the radar in Australia. Fast forward to today, and the Netflix revolution completely changed the way in which we consume TV content.

What’s streaming TV, anyway?

While there’s nothing new about video being streamed via the internet – YouTube has been doing it, for years – streaming TV services operate like TV networks where you can choose the programming. You pick the stuff you want to watch and when you want to watch it. Then, you watch as much of it as you like. Free from ads or other annoyances. It’s not hard to see the appeal, especially when access to all that content can cost as little as $10 per month. And the purely on-demand nature of it clicks perfectly with the increasingly unconventional working hours of so many Australians.

What’s streaming TV, anyway?

The evolution of streaming TV

Back in the day, pickens were slim Down Under when it came to streaming TV over the internet. While Netflix and other services had been making big waves in the US for several years, there weren’t any type of similar services available in Australia. Or so many thought. Quickflix, a mail-order DVD rental company, had seen the effect Netflix was having on the US market and decided to move into streaming themselves – years before streaming became the thing everyone was doing.

They weren’t alone, either. Telstra’s Bigpond Movies service also started streaming movie rentals and purchases. Of course, the likes of Apple’s iTunes and Google Play were early starters as well. But the real precursor to the overwhelming take-up of TV streaming in Australia came from an unlikely source – the ABC. Their iView service launched way back in 2008 and quickly became part of the way ABC viewers watched TV – streaming episodes on their desktop PC, on their phones and, later, on their TVs. The huge popularity of iView was a sign of things to come.

Of course, once Netflix showed up in Australia, all bets were off. Beaten to the starting gate by local services Stan (still enjoying huge success) and Presto (which would last less than two years), Netflix was offering Australia a taste of what had become part of the culture in the US and Europe. An all-you-can-eat service offering complete TV seasons and tons of movies for a few dollars a week.

Australia responded with a hearty “yes please” and at last count, Netflix subscribers in Australia are at around the 3 million mark (with Stan pushing towards 1 million). People started binge-watching entire series in one night and talking about them with friends the next day, while internet providers’ links struggled to keep up with the bandwidth. A phenomenon was born, and these days it’s likely more people watch streaming TV than traditional TV channels.

The apps

Key to any streaming service’s success is its app. That’s the portal to the content, and the entire interaction customers have with the service. Once inside the app, what they watch is up to them (though Netflix and others will use all kinds of cleverness to recommend content). Streaming TV was never going to be a thing as long as it was confined to just computer screens and mobile phones, though. It needed to be viewable on your lounge room TV.

Netflix pioneered the concept of putting an app for their service onto pretty much every device in existence and were right there on the earliest “smart” TVs.

These days, you’ll find apps for the big players on pretty much every smart TV, streaming box, portable device and anything else with a screen. The rise of these streaming devices has been key to the success of all streaming TV services. Stan went all-out to get on as many devices as they could as fast as possible, and Foxtel Now even went to the lengths of creating their own custom streaming box built around their service.

 The apps

The Top Streaming TV Providers

The one that needs no introduction. With over 100 million subscribers around the world, Netflix is the streaming TV service that’s set the standard. Their vast library of high quality original TV shows (and now movies as well) is worth the price of admission on its own.

The service provides easy, contract-free streaming access to a huge number of Foxtel’s live TV channels via online streaming. That means that even if you can’t get access to satellite or cable Foxtel, you can still catch all the sport, movie and TV action as it goes to air – or on demand – in high definition on supported devices. All thanks to Foxtel Now.

The “local Netflix” has a superb library of films as well as some brilliant TV you can’t see anywhere else – like the latest shows from US network Showtime. Stan also produces its own shows, including the excellent TV series version of Wolf Creek or the hilarious comedy series No Activity.

Wall-to-wall reality TV is the name of hayu’s game. They do it well, offering something for everyone. With a bargain monthly cost of $5.99, it’s a must for everyone who likes to relax with a big dose of exciting reality television.

Still in its “soft launch” phase in Australia while Amazon properly sets up shop here, Prime Video  costs only US$2.99 a month. That’s worth it for the superb Amazon Originals alone, including The Grand Tour for Top Gear fans, The Man in the High Castle, Red Oaks and the award-winning Marvellous Mrs Maisel.

The future of streaming TV

While it’s very much a Netflix world right now, Australia’s proven very open to other services. We’re one of the fastest-adopting countries in the world when it comes to streaming TV, and the big providers overseas are surely taking note. US network CBS purchasing the Ten network last year may lead to them launching their All Access streaming service here. Disney is rumoured to be building its own service as well.

The great thing about streaming TV is that you don’t have to be a behemoth to get in on the action. Indie film distributors Madman and Dendy, for example, run their own successful streaming services on a much smaller scale. We’re sure to see more niche services in coming years, all operating on the same formula – a low monthly charge to watch anything you want, whenever you want.