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Getting your fix (of content)

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Part 1 – Streaming Video

Stan. It’s not a name that immediately conjures up visions of TV and cinema classics, but it’s the name that the Nine Network and Fairfax Media have chosen for their new streaming service, due early 2015.

The introduction of this type of flat-rate subscription service is a sign that the entertainment industry is finally taking Australians’ thirst for timely and affordable quality content seriously.

Over the next few months, we’ll take a look at the options available now to get your favourite flicks or TV shows.

Mark me down as a film lover. What’s out there for me?

If you’re happy to sit back and enjoy films, which you may not have heard of before, then there are a few free options to look at, with plenty of films at their disposal. The common theme for those who want newer films, which they may have missed at the cinema, is that there isn’t a service with a low, flat fee that is an “all you can watch” option.

If you want newer films, you need to be prepared to open your wallet.

So let’s have a look at the services that won’t charge you a cent.

Crackle

The brainchild of Sony Entertainment, Crackle is limited to Sony’s own catalogue of movies and TV shows. Although the Australian version of Crackle pales in comparison to its US counterpart, if you like 80s and 90s classics, you’ll be in for a treat – with box office hits and fan favourites for you to choose from. It also has more recent content, like the Jerry Seinfeld web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (watch the episode with Tina Fey – hilarious)

The catch with Crackle is the regular and awkwardly placed ad breaks during the film. But there are some great films to watch.

Where Crackle shines is in its availability, as you can access it on most devices on the market today, from smartphones and tablets through to gaming consoles, smart TVs and more.

Viewster

With a reported 12,000 films to choose from globally plus a large range of TV shows, Viewster one-ups Crackle in terms of content availability. Having said that, most of the available content is of lesser-known films across a wide range of genres, and the actual amount available to Australians may differ due to rights agreements in place.

Like Crackle, although Viewster is ad-supported, it’s available across a number of platforms, meaning whatever your viewing preference, there’s sure to be a Viewster app or website to suit.

The surprise packet

SBS On Demand has been available since 2011, and their choice of available content was always strong. They shook things up this year in a big way when they made 400 films available on their catch-up service. Not just focused on foreign or independent cinema, they’ve shown themselves to be horror buffs of the highest calibre with a great selection of scream-worthy flicks from the 70s onwards. Available 24 hours a day and across a wide range of devices, SBS On Demand is certainly worth the attention of movie buffs.

OK – but what about those I have to pay for?

I like to think of the paid streaming landscape as the video store of the 21st century. The basic premise being that you go to the electronic shelf in front of you and pay for the movie you want to watch – except you don’t get the “two new releases for $6.95”.

Quickflix

Of the main Australian players, Quickflix has been around for the longest, having originally established themselves, much like Netflix in the USA, as a DVD delivery service. They’ve since branched out into online streaming of films, with a $9.99/month fee getting you unlimited streaming of a selection of films and TV shows. This doesn’t cover their entire catalogue however, and the majority of newish titles carry a $3.99 or $5.99 price tag.

EzyFlix

Ezyflix is a simple pay-as-you-go streaming service, but with a twist. Aside from being able to rent or purchase films, you can also redeem your Ultraviolet copy of a film you’ve purchased on DVD (basically a digital copy of the film), and store it in the cloud of your Ezyflix account.

All purchases are only playable as an online stream – meaning you can only view your movies through the website, or the Ezyflix app on your smart TV, phone or tablet.

Of course, this means you’re using your precious quota every time you watch the same content. One also must wonder what happens to the films you purchase if Ezyflix ever goes bust…

Putting thoughts of doom-and-gloom aside, Ezyflix are the first in Australia to offer a disc-to-digital service for some of your old DVDs. For fees ranging from $2-$5, you can pay to get digital copies of your DVD purchases. While it might seem to be basically paying for the same movie twice, for me I’m more likely to watch a film through an app on my smart TV as opposed to the DVD player (yes, I’m that lazy).

Presto

One of the constant criticisms levelled towards Foxtel has been that you had to pay for a lot of content you didn’t want in order to get the content you did.

Well, for movie fans, Foxtel came the party with Presto. For just under $10 a month, you get access to unlimited streaming from a library of films, plus the ability to rent newer releases (which cost up to $6 each).

Presto would seem a no-brainer to me, if not for the fact that it’s movie-only (ideally it would include TV shows too), and doesn’t currently have a smart TV app that I could use, meaning viewing would be restricted to my tablet or PC.

How much data will I chew through?

An average film will use up to 2GB of data, but HD films are about double this. TV shows range from 200MB to 1GB.

Now, today’s plans have large enough quotas to handle daily viewing, but some customers on older plans might want to check their quota before starting a movie streaming marathon on the couch.

What else do I need to know?

As you can see, there a number of options out there for film lovers, and we’ve only touched on a few. For example, iiNet TV with Fetch has thirty included films a month, plus latest releases – all quota free. There’s no one-stop shop for your entire movie viewing needs, so it pays to choose wisely.

A survey published this week showed two-thirds of Australians agreed that if content distributors offered cheaper, fairer pricing, people would not download illegally. Sixty per cent of respondents believed that if content was made available in the same time as it is available elsewhere, this would also act against the practice of illegal downloads.

We know most people want to access their entertainment legitimately and easily. Let’s hope the content owners listen.

Next month, we’ll take a look at catch-up and other TV options, so stay tuned.

 

7 comments

  1. Patrick Armstrong says:

    I have never ever downloaded film or T.V series. I quite understand that pricing forces users to look elsewhere. Pricing of DVD’s. I bought a single (T.V.) DVD here. It cost about AUS $29… In the U.K. I bought a complete boxed set for less! Australia’s retailing system incurs heavy costs and / or charges. My boxed set was geared for Australian viewers… No problems.

  2. Mike Elliott says:

    It’s becoming like an entertainment minefield but I’m still fairly happy with Fetch although I wish they’d trim the amount of music channels and give us a bit more variety. I’d love to see a UKTV type channel added and the movie box tweaked a bit to have a few more newer movies. Oh and getting a bit sick of all the foodie shows on Lifestyle :)

  3. Blubarb says:

    Are you letting us into your editing secrets?
    Paragraph 3

    Over the next few months, we’ll take a look at the options available now to get your favourite flicks or TV shows. [I think we need to be careful about “what’s not” line – don’t want]

  4. Mitchell Blom says:

    What about the speed as I want to watch HD content but the 150KBs is just not good enough, when are we getting faster speeds in the network? What is the e.t.a. of the NBN for Perth?

  5. Proofreader says:

    [I agree with the decision to remove the “what’s not” line. But I think you also need to be careful with the “need to be careful” line – don’t want that either.]

  6. Anonymous says:

    I would still rather use a file (sharing) website as the movies and TV I like to watch should not be governed by my government. And the person who shares the file is not making any money from me so why is it illegal. I am a new customer to iiNet and I thought you guys had our backs on this file sharing. Why should we let some big wig control what we want to watch and get rich doing it.

  7. Andrew says:

    The old video and DVD’s were much better simply because you could play them as many times as you liked you also had the ability to Fast forward through any adverts you did not want to see.
    Then the manufactures brought in DRM and regions this limited the amount of times you could play the movie it also restricted the areas where you could watch the DVD.
    If you had a relative in another country who bought you a legal DVD and sent it to you. You could not play it because your DVD player did not play a DVD from that region. This is want has stopped a lot of people from buying movies.
    As for the free streaming sites such as Crackle they have adverts that you cannot fast forward through. For example if the movie is 4Gb in size and the Advert content of the movie is 600MB that 600Mb of data that the user does not want to see is still included in their Download Quota their ISP charges them.
    If all advertising is in the Free Zone and not included in Data you pay for and the user have the ability to skip any advert then I may consider one of those services.
    As for the paid streaming services unless I can pause during the movie I would not consider them.

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