TV streaming

When it comes to watching popular TV shows via online streaming, we're missing out.
 
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  • Updated:9 Jul 2013
 

01 .The current situation

tv-on-the-net-lead

Australian viewers get a raw deal when it comes to watching our favourite TV shows. We pay more, and often content isn’t accessible how and when we want it. CHOICE examines why that’s the case.

In the US, online streaming services for TV and movies are affordable and flexible, providing lots of content on many different devices. A Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription is cheap and will give you a generous selection of TV series and movies to watch online whenever and wherever it suits.

In Australia, Quickflix starts at twice the price of Netflix, only streams some TV shows and movies, and charges extra to watch certain content.

A cable TV subscription is also expensive in Australia and doesn’t provide back seasons on demand. Similarly, iTunes Australia gives you access to some of these shows, but each new series costs around $35 per season, or $3 per episode.

TV networks and movie studios aren't keeping up with changes in technology and viewer desires, and often failing to offer content directly to paying consumers. Some fans turn to piracy when they might otherwise have paid for content if it was available at a reasonable price and in a way that suits them.

Piracy undermines the industry, but to counter it the industry needs to change to meet the needs of consumers and keep up with advances in technology.

Australian and US overview

Online
  • Netflix in the US costs only $US8 per month and features a comprehensive range of movies and TV shows including Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, House of Cards and Arrested Development. Extensive back catalogues for many series are available for instantaneous viewing.
  • In Australia, Quickflix subscription costs range from $15 to $35 per month, and you pay extra to watch some movies and TV shows. Also, it still uses DVDs for new release movies.
  • Some Australian consumers use free browser plugins such as Hola to access Netflix in the US.
  • US Amazon has a subscription service called Amazon Prime that costs $US79 per year which lets you stream TV shows and movies and even borrow eBooks.
  • iTunes and Amazon in the US screen popular shows such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men, but they’re not available until after they screen on the cable channel because of network deals.
  • In Australia, iTunes provides downloads for TV shows that are available to watch a little while after they screen on Foxtel. A season pass to these shows costs about $35. While delayed, this is on par with, or even slightly cheaper in some cases, than the US.
Cable/Pay TV
  • In the US, there is a choice of cable networks with different packages and prices.
  • Australians are limited to Foxtel and subscriptions are expensive.
Free-to-air TV
  • In Australia, free-to-air TV series usually screen behind the US and scheduling can be disrupted or delayed by other programs. For example, SBS recently screened an older season of Mad Men while the latest season was showing in the US.

Video: CHOICE on digital streaming and geo-blocking

CHOICE takes a look at digital streaming, geo-blocking and internet piracy and sends a clear message to media outlets and content providers in Australia.


 
 

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02.Australia vs the US

 

In the US, online streaming services for TV and movies are affordable and flexible, allowing you to view lots of content on a range of devices. Choices in Australia are much more limited.

US services

Amazon Prime Instant Video $US79/year

Amazon Prime is an online movie and TV portal from the bookselling giant. Yearly subscription provides access to movies and TV shows including new release titles, adult and children's TV shows and e-book loans.

Hulu Plus $US7.99/month

Hulu has a large catalogue of TV and movies including Saturday Night Live, The Carrie DiariesModern Family, Law and Order, Grey’s Anatomy, The Simpsons and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. There are also foreign language shows. The service includes free short- and long-form content, including TV shows and clips from popular shows, interviews with TV stars and news segments.

Netflix $US7.99/month

In the US, Netflix has an enormous catalogue of TV shows, such as Breaking Bad, as well as Netfix Original series like House of Cards and the exclusive fourth season of Arrested Development. Netflix currently doesn't operate in Australia and there’s no definite launch date in sight.

Australian services

Quickflix

    Quickflix is an online movie and TV streaming service with a DVD post-out service. It has movie and TV subscriptions from $15 to $35 per month, pay-per-view movies and season pass TV shows. The collection includes popular TV shows such as The Sopranos, Veep, True Blood and Game of Thrones. Shows can be viewed on iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets, as well as computers, Xbox and PS3 gaming consoles and some TVs.

    Foxtel Australia

    Basic package $47/month + Movies & Premium Drama pack $25/month

    It costs $72 per month for the package that includes more than 30 different series, such as House of Cards (US and UK versions), Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Girls, Nurse Jackie, Dexter, and True Blood. Not all are airing at present, but most are scheduled over the coming months. However, you can only watch the season Foxtel is screening and must wait for previous seasons to screen if you want to catch up. You can watch Foxtel GO on your iPhone and iPad as well as your TV, as long as you are a TV subscriber.

    03.Alternative services

     

    The arrival of new services shows movie studios and TV networks are slowly recognising that people want to watch their content on different devices - a small step in the right direction.

    Disc-to-digital services

    Some streaming services are linked to DVD disc. Using this system, consumers first buy the disc and are then provided with a code to stream or download a file to watch on a computer or tablet. UltraViolet is one of these cloud-based digital movie systems that lets you download or stream content to your smartphone, tablet or computer.

    Three companies currently offer Ultraviolet in Australia: JB HiFi NOW, Flixster and EzyFlix.

    In the US, Vudu offers disc-to-download movies.

    Australian TV catch-up services

    Local free-to-air TV networks were slow to realise that viewers want to watch shows on demand, but all now offer catch-up services.

    The ABC’s iView screens most programs and keeps them available online or via an iView app for several weeks after broadcast.

    SBS on Demand has documentaries and TV shows available online and via their app.

    Channel 7, Channel 9 and Channel 10 also offer similar services, including shows not broadcast live to air.


    04.Unblocking geo-blocks

     

    While most international providers have put geo-blocks in place to prevent viewers in other regions accessing their content, there are some ways around it. Our article on geo-blocking explains how to circumvent geographic restrictions and the legalities.

    Local consumers have been able to circumvent restrictive geo-blocks using legal paid services such as unblock-us.com and blockless.tv. These cost about $5 per month and effectively hide your computer’s country address when accessing overseas websites.

    A couple of free browser plugins are also now available which do the same thing. Hola uses Chrome and Firefox plugins on both Windows and Macs. It works with a range of online music and video services including Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, iTV and Channel 4.

    Similarly, Media Hint also offers Chrome and Firefox plugins. The service works in the background, unlike Hola, which has an icon in the desktop toolbar to indicate it is running.

    05.What CHOICE thinks

     

    Australians are discriminated against when it comes to accessing content, release windows and price. CHOICE thinks this should change. The movie and TV industry must adapt to cater to how and when consumers want to view their entertainment.

    Legal access not piracy

    Consumers understand that paying for content is necessary to keep high-cost TV shows and movies in production. In many instances, illegal downloading has become commonplace because media companies have failed to keep up with changing consumer viewing habits and technology.

    The success of legal music streaming services such as Spotify in Australia shows that consumers are willing to pay for content if they can get it when and how they want it.

    Spotify offers a free ad-based service, as well as a premium ad-free one. Australasian managing director Kate Vale believes that Spotify provides a legal alternative to piracy, which contributes to its success.

    “[Piracy] was huge in Australia,” Ms Vale said in May this year. “What has been shown in other markets is that when we do a launch, piracy does go down."

    TV and movie studios need to adapt to the changing world and give Australian consumers better access to content at more competitive prices. This presents new commercial possibilities for them, and is also the best way of taking incentives away from piracy.

    Appealing to governments to crack down on illegal downloading through punitive measures such as the three-strikes law - which can strip consumers of important essential services - is the wrong path.

    Provide consumers with an accessible, affordable and legal alternative to piracy, and they will take it. 

    Madison Cartwright

    CHOICE is calling on Australian consumers to take action and access the affordable and legal services available online.

    Join our campaign by following these three simple steps: 

    Step one: Don’t play by their rules

    Have a look at the services which enable Australian consumers to access blocked websites overseas. 


    Step two: Spread the word

    Share the infographic below with your friends and family. Simply click on the image to download it, and feel free to use it on your social networks and blogs. You can also share our video.

    Step three: Take action

    Sign up as a CHOICE campaign supporter to keep up-to-date on this and other important consumer campaigns

     


    Download and share our TV on the net infographic

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    This infographic was updated on the 9th of July, 2013.