BINGE review: Is Foxtel’s new streaming app any good?
Foxtel's new BINGE streaming TV service enters the top end of a crowded market, but does so armed with great content. Does BINGE TV deserve your dollar?
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Is BINGE any good?
BINGE leverages the best exclusive blockbuster drama, crime and comedy TV from Foxtel and repackages it in boxset form, accessible via a streaming video on demand (SVOD) app. It then surrounds this with live channels, great movies and legacy classics. The result is a value-for-money option for households in the 15–50 demographic, even if there is room for improvement.
- Launching with a big library of content
- Focus on quality and full boxset experiences
- Stable at launch
- Ongoing exclusive HBO rights in Australia
- Surprise Me! feature is fun
- Great for Foxtel downsizers
- Picture-in-picture mode allows you to work and watch
- 14-day free trial
- Lack of 4K and Dolby Atmos support
- Reduced accessibility options
- No Kayo Sports bundle package
- Unclear timeline on HBO Max Originals
- Lack of depth in kids' programming
- Surprise Me! feature limited to browsers and Telstra TV at launch
Rewind time just 10 years and the pay TV landscape in Australia wasn't awfully complex. There was Foxtel and… well, there was pretty much just Foxtel. But the way we consume entertainment, in particular TV and movies, has changed dramatically in the years since. While Foxtel iQ and pay TV is still a thing, Australian homes have become more focused on SVOD services.
SVOD just makes sense in our modern, connected world. Rather than waiting for your favourite channel to broadcast the show you want or downloading it to your local hard drive, you simply log in to a service's server, select the program and hit play. It streams to you on demand on a huge array of devices.
SVOD has done to traditional TV what Uber did to taxis.
Now it's an arms race. If Netflix was the big name that turned SVOD into a cultural movement, it's now besieged on all sides by a host of alternative services. In Australia alone, Stan, Disney+, Apple TV+, Kayo Sports, 10 All Access, Foxtel Now and Amazon Prime Video all offer compelling experiences, delineating themselves primarily through content. Now you can throw BINGE into the mix.
You can't afford them all and you couldn't find the time to watch them all anyway. So, does BINGE deserve to be the SVOD service that takes centre stage in your home? It's time for Finder's BINGE review.
What makes BINGE stand out?
There's a lot of window dressing hoping to give each SVOD service unique street appeal, which we'll dive into shortly, but the bottom line is content. It's where every SVOD app comparison should start and, for many, where it ends. In this regard, BINGE is excellent.
We've counted up all the movies and all the TV shows available on BINGE at launch and it totals over 1,700, including 800 movies. That tallies TV shows individually, too, not seasons. So, given the service focuses on delivering full boxset experiences, the actual hours of content here is well over 10,000 and will continue to grow daily. By comparison, the recently released Disney+ (800-ish) and Apple TV+ (10-ish) are distant shadows.
More importantly, it's high-quality content. BINGE has full access to all the shows Foxtel has secured the rights to use on its Foxtel iQ and Foxtel Now services. And BINGE has gone through that library, cherry-picking the highest-rated, most-beloved or trending TV shows for its service. Then on top of that, it has added a thick layer of movies, reality TV and documentaries as icing on the cake.
The end result is a curated catalogue of blockbuster entertainment, filtered through some cute interface quirks such as the Surprise Me! randomiser, Binge Centre and BingeLists. Throw in live channels and you have a content offering far beyond what we had initially expected when we had assumed BINGE would just be HBO Max for Australia.
It's also worth noting that, unlike Netflix, BINGE offers a 14-day free trial.
Does BINGE have any good exclusives?
We must be careful using the word "exclusive" in the context of BINGE, as technically everything on the service is also on Foxtel. But considering Foxtel and BINGE are sister products, we'll use the term here with respect to the competing services mentioned at the top of this article.
With that in mind, yes, BINGE has some very good exclusives. The jewel in the crown is its deal with WarnerMedia, which most notably includes HBO. Widely regarded as the home of the best TV of the last two decades, Warner has also just launched HBO Max in the USA. It's investing a small nation's GDP into producing new content to help sell that service and BINGE will benefit from being drip-fed this content over the coming years.
Beyond that, BINGE also has access to BBC, NBCUniversal, Discovery Channel, FX and plenty more, including Foxtel's own Originals like Gogglebox and Grand Designs. All of this content can only be accessed on BINGE (or Foxtel as mentioned), giving it a huge point of difference. Then to back that up, it has plenty of great filler content that does cross over frequently with other services (most notably Stan and Amazon Prime Video).
Is the price right for BINGE?
|Plan||Maximum video quality||Simultaneous streams||Devices||Price|
|Basic||SD||1||PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, Telstra TV, Android TV||$10/month|
|Standard||HD||2||PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, Telstra TV, Android TV||$14/month|
|Premium||HD||4||PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, Telstra TV, Android TV||$18/month|
BINGE sees itself as a premium offering and prices itself accordingly. There's the next-to-useless $10/month (SD) plan, the $14/month (HD) standard plan and the somewhat-redundant $18/month (still HD) plan. This puts the cost of BINGE more or less on par with both Stan and Netflix.
While each service has its quirks in user interface and features, there's really a grain of salt between the way you consume the various SVOD apps. But on content alone, the price of the standard plan is right.
The $18/month plan is where BINGE falters. With no 4K or Dolby Atmos support at the highest price tier (as seen with Netflix and Stan), it drops the ball. It's worth noting 4K is standard on the far cheaper Amazon Prime ($6.99/month), Disney+ ($7.99/month) and Apple TV+ ($8.99/month) services.
BINGE also suffers from tight simultaneous stream restrictions (just two on the Standard plan) and accessibility concerns. While the launch line-up of devices is strong, it's missing key big hitters like video game consoles and smart TVs that the likes of Netflix have covered. Closed captions are also a notable omission.
But it does come down to content and in this regard the $14/month plan feels about right. The content is diverse and well-regarded, with new seasons and shows launching every day. There's enough here to justify the price, especially when you compare it to the only other way to stream the likes of HBO (Foxtel Now at $35/month) it's a bargain.
In the future, we would like to see more included in that standard pack and a complete overhaul of the premium pack if there is to be a continued justification of that price. A future package deal with Kayo Sports, another sister product of BINGE, would also be great.
BINGE app review: Does the UI stand out?
There is nothing revolutionary about the BINGE UI experience, but it's clean, easy to navigate and will only get better as more users interact with it. Expect a merging of Kayo Sports and Foxtel iQ4, that sticks true to the horizontal tile standard we all know and… deal with. The IMDb rating next to each show is a nice touch, but we're disappointed you're unable to burrow down into cast and crew to head off down the rabbit hole.
Don't tell your boss, but the picture-in-picture mode from Kayo Sports has also made it across, allowing you to keep binging while multi-taksing on your PC or Mac. As for the other key features integrated into the UI, we'll touch on that in the next section. What's more important is that it all works.
Launching an SVOD service with the scope of BINGE could often see months of hiccups, but we're happy with our early results testing the experience. BINGE is a sister product of Kayo Sports and is built off the same technology. Finding huge success since its launch in November 2018, Kayo Sports has won awards for its user experience and customer service.
By standing on the shoulders of this giant, BINGE's launch stability is relatively solid. In fact, both Kayo Sports and BINGE use the same login. We've noticed a few gremlins in the initial days, such as the odd season missing or the odd show that doesn't want to play. There could be some better optimisation of the user interface on Apple TV hardware, too.
So yes, there's room for growth, but we've seen far worse starts in the past and we're confident that these surface issues will be smoothed out quickly. (We'll be sure to update this review if it proves otherwise.)
Do BINGE's features kill the scroll?
When we were first shown BINGE, the service highlighted three key features to help separate it from competing SVOD apps. The Binge Centre aims to be a hub page for a series, collecting not just all the movies or all the seasons in one place, but also supplementary programs such as cast interviews, making-of featurettes and talk shows.
This is neat and lends itself well to the idea of "binging" TV, but feels a little underdone at launch. There's not a great deal of supplementary content from what we've seen and as mentioned, it stops short of letting you burrow deeper on profiles of cast and crew. However, the way each episode of every season is presented is very nice. Knowing just how big your feast is going to be really works up the appetite.
BingeLists allow you to store a series for later viewing and again lends itself well to the core conceit of binging. But to call it much more than a wish list function would be to oversell it.
Surprise Me! is a more interesting addition. Foxtel spoke to us about trying to "kill the scroll", which is frankly horrid on services like Netflix. Sadly, this feature is buried at the bottom of the content pages, so you must scroll to get to it. Argh! Once pressed, it will select a show to watch on your behalf, based off editor picks and an ever-improving AI.
It's a fun way to dive in and get watching without the stress of trying to choose. However, like the search function, it'll take some time for Surprise Me! to find its legs given it's reliant on user data to drive its algorithms.
It's also worth noting that, similar to Kayo Sports, the BINGE app does allow you to plug into live feeds from a selection of 15 Foxtel channels. Good ones, too! Lifestyle, Fox Showcase, Fox One, Fox Crime, Universal TV, BBC UKTV, History Channel and more. It's perhaps not the way most will use an SVOD device, but for those looking to downsize from Foxtel, it's a handy addition.
BINGE accessibility has question marks.
As launches go, BINGE has a robust line-up of compatible devices. You can log in to a browser on PC and Mac. Both iOS and Android mobile and tablet devices are catered for. You can use Chromecast and AirPlay, plus Apple TV, Android TV and Telstra TV are also in the mix. Nearly every household in Australia will be sorted one way or another.
However, it could be better. The lack of native app support for smart TVs and video game consoles is disappointing. Especially given that Kayo Sports also still lags in this department we're scratching our heads trying to work out what the hold-up is. Just get it done!
The lack of closed captions is also a bit of a kick in the guts to those with disabilities or who use English as a second language. While the aforementioned lack of 4K and Dolby Atmos support is stupefying in 2020, putting anyone with high-end home theatre set-ups on the outer.
There is a win though. You can set up multiple profiles through the one BINGE account, giving households with multiple tastes or demographics an opportunity to get a more tailored experience. It's a feature Foxtel users have wanted for years and it's great to finally get a taste of it alongside the service's content.
BINGE review verdict: Who should get it?
At launch, BINGE is very much focused on the TV connoisseur. If deep-diving into the entire boxset of award-winning shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Band of Brothers, The Wire, Seinfeld, Barry, Westworld, True Detective, Sex and the City and programs of that ilk is your jam, BINGE will deliver maximum value.
While the key advertised features of Binge Centres and BingeLists aren't incredible game-changers, the Surprise Me! function does have a compelling future. How well will the AI adapt to each profile's tastes over the months and years ahead? That's the key question only time can answer.
For families or households looking for one service to rule them all, BINGE gets a little shaky. Yes, there are movies here classified as "family" and enough to tide you over for a while. But until the promised arrival of kids' TV in the future, the library is a little light in this regard. Take it from someone with 3 kids under 10.
The lack of 4K and Dolby Atmos support is weak, there's no doubt. It feels like Foxtel is pulling back on BINGE's shirt, trying to keep its Foxtel iQ service with a foot in the game. It's the wrong move in this writer's opinion if you're going to come into the market at the higher end of the price spectrum. Let BINGE off the leash and go all in.
Despite this, BINGE will deservedly find an audience. And if you're sick of surfing through the likes of Netflix for 20 minutes trying to find something that's good, then the blockbuster-or-bust curation of BINGE is a breath of fresh air. You can start watching now using this 14-day free trial
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