Intro, Price and Devices
Netflix is the leading internet TV service in the US, but as three other big companies enter the battle arena for 2015 there is some stiff competition shaping up down under.
Information about the exact launch dates of Netflix and the content that it will be able to get the rights for in Australia, is still to be confirmed. with the official launch of Stan on Australia Day and the release of the Presto entertainment package only a week or so before that, most of the active players are still polishing their products and making changes.
We will update the comparison as more device connectivity is rolled out and new content deals are signed across all four companies. In the meantime, this is TechRadar's best guess at how each of these subscription streaming services stack up on important points and which one you should keep an eye on on 2015.
Stan $10 per month - 30 day free trial.
Presto $14.99 per month - 30 day free trial - Option to only pay $9.99 for either the Movie only pack or TV only pack.
Netflix has not officially confirmed its price tag though there are rumours that it will be $9.99. In the US users who signed up before May 9th 2014 pay US$7.99 per month, anyone subscribing after pays US$8.99. They also have an option for 4k subscribers at US $9.99.
Quickflix $9.99 - 14 day free trial - This streaming service can be complemented by a standalone DVD delivery service at $12.99, which is $19.99 when combined with the streaming. Quickflix also has a premium service where you can purchase new release titles individually as a pay per view show.
The StreamCo protege, Stan, supports applications on tablets and phones for both iOS and Android. Stan can also can cast from a range of devices to the TV using a Chromecast dongle. Launching with Apple AirPlay enabled, you can even stream from your iPad or iPhone directly through the Stan application to your Apple TV. For Mac and PCs, the service is simply accessed through the Safari or Firefox browsers though unfortunately it is not compatible with Google Chrome. You can sign up to six devices on any one account and once this is full, swap over one device each month. There are no applications available on TVs or consoles just yet, though there are plans to develop these in the future.
Quickflix is available directly through Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Sony smart TVs. It is also compatible with PS3, PS4, Xbox360 and also XboxOne. It's also available on a range of phones and tablets including iOS, both Google and Samsung Androids, Kindle Fire and Windows phone. On top of Chromecast, Quickflix can also be connected through media devices including TiVo, HUMAX, Kobo and Oppo. As it has been available in Australia for some time now, it is not surprising that this service has the most comprehensive device accessibility.
Netflix has not released information on exactly which devices will be compatible in Australia at launch, but the US streaming service has stated that this list would include smart TVs, tablets and smartphones, computers and a range of internet-capable game consoles and set-top boxes from launch. With over 1000 compatible internet-connected devices in the US Netflix is likely to be more comprehensive than any of the Australian services.
Kid's Programs and TV Content
Stan's core children's programing comes from deals with Viacom, which has the rights to the Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. channels, and the ABC. Some of Viacom's kids programs include the hit shows Avatar: The Last Airbender; Octonauts, Ni Hao, Kai-Lan and Bubble Guppies and popular live-action shows like iCarly, VICTORiOUS, and Drake & Josh. There is also a decent collection of ABC favourites like The Wiggles, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Guess How Much I Love You and Justine Clarke and overseas titles that the ABC has the rights to like Octonauts, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, Thomas and Friends, Fireman Sam, Sesame Street and Mister Maker. The BBC also gives Stan access to the show Charlie and Lola and documentaries from David Attenborough. Stan is great for the kids in the TV section but it doesn't have the Disney movie titles that will be offered on Netflix and Presto.
Presto - the Seven and Foxtel venture also has a content deal with Viacom so they share recognisable children's titles including SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Deals with other big children's program distributors Saban, DHX Media and Hasbro Studios add an extensive range of shows that are suitable for the whole family. It isn't just TV though, with a comprehensive selection of classic Disney films like Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Toy Story and Tarzan complementing the newer family hits like Frozen, Ice age 2, UP, and A Night At the Museum. Overall Presto has hours of entertainment for the whole family.
Quickflix has a decent collection of children's films, though most of them are older titles. There are also a few contemporary children's programs from the ABC and the BBC thrown in, but in terms of TV, it isn't thorough. Paddington Bear, Sesame St and 90s Australian young adult program Around The Twist are the type of programs that define what is available for kids on Quickflix. There are some great movies in there but on the whole there is less new content for kids to engage with than the other services we compared.
Netflix had the movie premiere of DreamWorks Animation's The Adventures of Puss in Boots in January for their more established streaming regions around the world. The US streaming service is hinting that it intends to maintain its reputation for a solid level of kids content in Australia when it launches sometime in March. Netflix announced that it has deals with Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm for the distribution of children's titles in Australia.The US store even has specific settings so children can browse content by themselves without accidentally bumping into something inappropriate.
Stan has deals with Sony Pictures Television, CBS (includes SHOWTIME), MGM, BBC, ABC, Viacom and SBS and World Movies making its TV offering one of the most robust of the three live services. Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent and Better Call Saul are new and acclaimed TV titles that will be exclusive to Stan for the entire life of each series. There is also a good mix of popular and up-and-coming shows available on this service.
Presto brokered a deal with HBO for its launch in 2015 which includes access to 13 popular premium shows. The latest seasons of Boardwalk Empire (currently only pay-per-view on Quickflix) will be exclusive to the Presto service. Presto has also confirmed a deal with Showtime giving subscribers access to shows like, Dexter, Californication, Deadwood and Ray Donovan. This content is complemented by selected shows from Seven West Media and Foxtel making Presto's selection decent, but still comparatively slim on its range of TV shows with notably less exclusive titles.
Quickflix currently has back catalogues of HBO shows like True Blood, Entourage, The Sopranos and The Wire available on its subscription service. There are also BBC titles like Sherlock, Little Britain, Faulty Towers, The Office and Torchwood, SBS titles including The Killing and Wilfred and a huge range of films available on the $9.99 per month plan.
Netflix has a large catalogue in the US but the rights to show those programs in Australia will have to be renegotiated. So far Netflix has announced shows including Marco Polo, Bloodline, BoJack Horseman, Virunga, Mission Blue and Uganda Be Kidding Me.
Movies, Quality and Verdict
Stan's recent Roadshow Entertainment deal secured some desirable titles that are available immediately including The LEGO Movie and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, The Wolf of Wall Street, Edge of Tomorrow, The Inbetweeners 2, A Walk Among the Tombstones, John Wick, The Judge, and Australian films Wolf Creek 2 and Felony. The Imitation Game, the comedy St. Vincent and Golden Globe winning biopic Big Eyes will also be available later in the year. Stan already had a competitive lineup of titles from its MGM deal, that will see titles like The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 21 Jump Street and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo appear on Stan. MGM will also contribute a number of classic films like When Harry Met Sally, The Silence of the Lambs, West Side Story and Four Weddings and a Funeral. Stan also has content from SBS World Movies including films from over 45 countries in more than 70 languages and big Australian titles like Animal Kingdom.
Presto's movie service precedes the new Entertainment package and has already accumulated a decent collection of movies. Since the start of 2015, Presto has given its customers access to new titles such as Captain America: Winter Soldier, Thor the Dark World, American Gangster, Philomena and Layer Cake. The movie selection is decent and when you consider that it is the same price as the other services combined, it should be.
Quickflix offers a somewhat eclectic mix of films under its streaming subscription service. Because there is a pay-per-view movie streaming option on Quickflix, the newest home rental titles are placed there first, meaning what ends up in the subscription movie basket is either good but old or seems as though it is really scraping the barrel in terms of quality. Because there's a tonne of films on there, this service is more suited to movie buffs looking for a comprehensive back catalogue of films rather than access to a few new release titles.
Netflix has only hinted at a couple of titles that it will have on release in Australia, but from this selection it seems like it will be striving to secure films that subscribers will actually want to watch. So far the titles avalible in Australia in March include Marvel''s Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Saving Mr. Banks and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Stan has the option of using their automated bit-rate adaption technology which will peg the display quality to the speed of your internet connection. Alternatively you can choose to watch titles in HD, and SD if you're watching on portable devices.
Presto only offers SD streaming making it lowest out of the four in the image quality section.
Quickflix offers standard definition videos with HD options on selected titles.
Netflix has said that it will offer HD options across the board and even 4K where available. Netflix will also have an automatic setting that will optimise picture quality according to internet speed.
If you are already subscribed to the Apple ecosystem and have an Apple TV and an iPhone, iPad or Mac, then it would be hard not to give the highest recommendation to Stan. Its compatibility with Apple products makes it easy to use and the service offers a good selection of titles from new releases to classics in both film and TV. Stan's design is focused on providing a solid movie and TV subscription streaming service that can be complemented by Apple TV's pay-per-view online movie store. This may change when Netflix releases in March but the service overall is in line with what we expect from streaming services overseas and makes for the most desirable new product in Australia.
Presto has a great movie collection but it is hard to really experience the prestige of the titles on your television, not only because of the limited number of compatible device types but also because you can only watch in SD. Though Presto has a number of really great TV shows it is also slightly less extensive and has fewer exclusive TV shows than Stan. Combine this with a more expensive price tag and it is obvious that there are a couple of areas where Presto is not the leading streaming service.
If you are not an Apple subscriber then Quickflix is probably not a bad option. It has a decent selection of TV shows available and there are apps for a heap of devices. The premium service means that if you really wanted to watch a particular show you have the option. Furthermore if you are an organised individual and don't mind the effort, forward planning and extra monthly cost required to have DVDs mailed to you, then you can actually save a decent amount of money on highly desirable shows like the Game of Thrones series. Purely in terms of its subscription streaming, Quickflix's TV selection is only slightly outweighed by Presto's but it is less far less impressive on the movie front. The fact that it is cheaper than Presto's combined option means that it is an option for a different type of user. If you have access to online movie purchases through another client, it's probably worth paying the extra five bucks for Presto's better movie and slightly better TV selection.
Netflix will be the dark horse in this equation and the impending release in March means there should be a number of exciting announcements over the next month. If the US service is any indication, we are expecting it to be aiming for the top of the pile, trumping Stan with original content, 4K streaming and a bigger overall catalogue, though his is by no means a given. Stan has been working on original locally-produced content for some time and it has said that it is keeping an eye on the feasibility of 4K in Australia. It will also be interesting to see how Netflix goes securing content, considering there are now three active streaming services here. The fact that Netflix has sold the rights to its flagship titles House of Cards and Orange is the New Black to Foxtel means that it will have to scoop some decent titles to head up its launch if it is to resemble the US service.
That said, it is worth some personal investigation into the content of each service as personal preference of shows is likely to be the determining factor. Stay tuned for updates on Netflix as they happen.