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Netflix Australia review: Is the Australian offering worth it?
With mounting pressure from rival services, is Netflix still a worthy streaming option in Australia?
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Netflix review verdict:
While new streaming services may catch your eye, veteran Netflix remains a solid entertainment option thanks to its varied content library.
Get Netflix if… You like to have plenty of choice when it comes to what you're watching and you need something to keep the entire family happy.
Avoid Netflix if… The platform's line-up of original content doesn't appeal to you and your main interests revolve around watching movies straight from the cinema.Netflix has had a rollercoaster few years Down Under. When it first launched back in March 2015, the main criticism of Foxtel's biggest threat was of its skeletal streaming library. Netflix's Australian TV show and movie library count (1,326 titles at launch) came in much lower than the US library (8,499 in the US at the time of the Australian launch). It also didn't offer some of the primo content US subscribers had access to.
However, that was 2015, and while the Netflix Australia library can still seem less generous than its US counterpart, rarely a day goes by that the service doesn't announce some kind of fantasy-fulfilling TV or movie. From sure-fire pop-culture candy like the Castlevania TV series to worldwide hits like Stranger Things and The Witcher to movies that score Oscar nominations to, yes, the occasional flop. While the quality varies, there's no doubt Netflix knows how to please its audience.
In fact, Netflix has a supernatural knack for knowing what its subscribers want (or access to scarily detailed viewer metrics and behaviours, one of the two). This is why even the biggest critical stinkers like Bright can be greenlit for a sequel because most subscribers will lap up whatever Netflix serves (and Netflix loves serving up its own originals). And probably why Adam Sandler movies are still crowding the streaming platform.
So can Netflix rightly be crowned the content king? And what of the price of admission? How does that stack up against its Australian competitors? We've analysed Netflix's performance over the past few years to see if a subscription is still worth your time.
The pros and cons of Netflix
- Generous library of original content
- Great content variety
- Seamless streaming experience
- Excellent features and functions
- Unrivalled device compatibility
- Can be pricey
- Licensed content likely to disappear as more services pop up
- No free trial offer at the moment
Netflix subscriptions (and most other streaming services) have always sold at a pretty generous price. Compared to the days of Foxtel's exploitative subscription model, Netflix and its streaming companions are offering some stellar services at around $10 per month or even less for their cheapest plans.
With that said, these services aren't immune to scrutiny and the Netflix price hike in 2017 was, without doubt, one of the most widely derided. When the now infamous Netflix Tax came into effect, the big red streaming service made the decision to pass that cost onto subscribers. This raised the price from $8.99 to $9.99 for the basic plan (1 device, SD), $11.99 to $13.99 for the standard plan (2 devices, HD) and $14.99 to $17.99 for a premium subscription (4 devices, UHD/4K).
|Netflix Australia pricing||Basic||Standard||Premium|
|Old monthly price||$8.99||$11.99||$14.99|
|New monthly price||$9.99||$13.99||$17.99|
|Stream quality||SD||SD/HD||SD/HD/Ultra HD|
|Maximum simultaneous streams||1||2||4|
Not the end of the world right? One dollar extra at the lowest tier, three dollars extra at the highest. Well, that's not how Australia saw it. The fact that Netflix lumped in a little extra price increase of its own with the 10% GST charge (the premium plan came in at 20% more expensive) didn't sit well with Australians, nor did the fact that they were now paying on par with US subscribers, who used to have access to a significantly more expansive library. In 2020, Netflix also decided to remove its free trial offer, so new customers can no longer test the platform for a month to decide if it's a right fit.
That being said, Netflix has always been open about its plans to expand into a truly global service. That means less licensed content and more original productions, so the content line-up would be more uniform across all countries where Netflix operates. And while Netflix Originals aren't always the créme de le créme of television, it's safe to say the library includes literally something for everyone, which can justify the price, especially if you're planning to entertain the entire family.
To compare, Stan's latest tiers come in at $10 per month for basic, $14 per month for standard and $17 per month for premium. Foxtel Now will set you back $25 per month at its entry-level packs but can cost you up to $104 per month if you want to add every channel pack available. Amazon Prime Video is sitting at $6.99 per month, which includes all the perks a Prime subscription brings, including free or expedited shipping. Meanwhile, newer services like Apple TV+ ($7.99) and Disney+ ($8.99 per month) are priced lower, mainly because their libraries are either too niche or not particularly large just yet.So while Netflix's plans aren't as cheap as some of its competitors, the content and quality of the stream does justify the monthly fee, especially if you're an avid binge-watcher.
Netflix content is a mixed bag, with the platform offering everything from movies to TV shows to kids' programming to documentaries. New titles are being added every week and the streamer keeps investing billions in fresh productions, showing no signs of slowing down.
That's great news for subscribers, since Netflix has a knack for attracting top talent and has also expanded its interests to include more reality TV in recent years. So whether you're into Academy Awards contenders or trashy television, the platform is able to satisfy even the most eccentric consumers.
Here's a quick rundown of Netflix highlights you might want to keep an eye out for:
Critically acclaimed movies
The streaming giant has been campaigning hard in recent years during awards season, hoping to eventually score its first Academy Award win for Best Picture. That hasn't happened yet, despite Netflix gathering an impressive number of award nominations for titles like The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes. We're expecting the trend to continue, with more critical darlings hitting the platform every year.
Easy-to-digest original movies
While acclaimed movies might be all the rage, sometimes you simply want to sit back and relax with a breezy comedy or mind-numbing action flick. Netflix has plenty of those as well, with the library featuring titles like Spenser Confidential, Polar or Coffee & Kareem. The service also has an overall deal with Adam Sandler, which means that we'll get even more flicks courtesy of the star and its production company.
Universally-beloved original series
While some like to dump on The Witcher for being "too confusing", there's no doubt that the show has become an international hit. The same goes for fan-favourites like Stranger Things, Sex Education, Glow, Russian Doll and The Crown. Netflix also had great success with reviving TV series previously owned by US networks, most notably You, Lucifer and Black Mirror.
Even some of the platform's local content has enjoyed international success, with series like Money Heist and Elite now boasting fans all over the world. In other words, while there's the occasional flop (we're looking at you, The I-Land), Netflix churns out enough crowd-pleasing series to earn a place in your entertainment roster. The platform has deals with top creators like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, so we should expect plenty of exciting tiles in the near future.
The revival of the rom-com
Remember when Hollywood was banking on romantic comedies to fill cinemas? That was way back When Harry Met Sally and Katherine Heigl was wearing an impressive number of bridesmaid dresses.
Years went by and trends evolved, to the point where big-budget rom-coms weren't really a thing anymore. Maybe that's because this kind of movie is best enjoyed at home, cuddled under a comfy blanket and sipping a glass of wine.
Netflix decided to fill the void and sponsored a renaissance for the genre, becoming the official home of the rom-com. Titles like To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Someone Great, Set It Up, Always Be My Maybe and Love, Wedding, Repeat stay testament to that.
Addictive true crime documentaries
Ever since the incredible success of Making a Murderer, Netflix has been releasing more true crime content. If you're a fan of the genre, the streamer offers plenty of disturbing and gripping series, from Confessions with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes to the global phenomenon Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Even some of the platform's scripted content like Mindhunter is designed to capitalise on the rising popularity of true crime.
Netflix also scores points for investing in local content. The streamer released its first original Australian production, Tidelands, gave Patrick Brammal and Emma Booth's Glitch a second season, worked with ABC to co-produce Australian TV series The Letdown and worked with the South Australian government to produce the mysterious political thriller Pine Gap. In addition to these titles, Netflix is giving existing TV shows like Please Like Me, Black Comedy and Round the Twist international exposure.
With that said, Netflix's Aussie content doesn't hold a candle to the quality originals streaming rival Stan has been pumping out. Wolf Creek, The Other Guy, Bloom, The Commons and Romper Stomper were all quality binges and Stan's No Activity was funny enough to attract the attention of Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who produced a US adaptation of the show in 2017.
A new kind of reality TV
Just a couple of years ago it was hard to imagine how reality TV could work on streaming, with all episodes released at once. Yet, Netflix doesn't let sceptics dictate what content subscribers get. Instead, it seems to rely on experimentation.
Given the roaring success of Queer Eye, there's no wonder the platform has decided to expand its reality offerings to include shows like Love Is Blind, The Circle, Nailed It!, Rhythm + Flow and Next in Fashion, to name a few. Since Netflix's reality TV catalogue seems to be growing every month, we'd say that consumers enjoy having access to unscripted, juicy series.
Choose your own adventure
In 2017, Netflix launched its first interactive TV show, Puss in Book. In a first for streaming, this Shrek spin-off gives kids control of the adventure. Puss in Books features a branching narrative with 13 plotline variants. This was followed closely by a second interactive adventure Buddy Thunderstruck: The Maybe Pile. By all reports, kids are loving the modern-day equivalent of Goosebumps' Reader Beware: You Choose the Scare.
In the same vein, there's a "choose your own adventure" for adults with Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. In a first for the world of streaming, Netflix also released a fully-fledged video game on its platform, Minecraft: Story Mode.
Netflix: Features and improvements
Every second day, there's an announcement about a new Netflix feature on a particular device. To list them all out here would be overkill (and wouldn't make for the most compelling read), so we're going to stick with some of the biggest improvements that happened since Netflix launched in Australia.
At 2017's MWC, Netflix announced it had been developing a new compression technology known as the Dynamic Optimiser. This AI-powered algorithm analyses each frame of a video and decides when it needs to bump the bitrate up, compressing only select images for a higher-quality stream on slower connections. Put simply, the Dynamic Optimiser would increase the bitrate in a visually complex scene like the fast-paced fisticuffs in Daredevil and pump the brakes on scenes with a simpler palette such as in an animated TV show like Big Mouth.
So what does this mean for the average Netflix user? Not a whole lot if you're on a super-fast and stable Internet connection (if you're not, consider comparing providers). However, if you're in an area with an outdated broadband connection or anything less than 4G/LTE, the Dynamic Optimiser will kick in and allow for a smoother stream. This is great news for rural Australians relying on mobile reception and countries like India, Japan and South Korea where Netflix is streamed more frequently on smartphones and tablets than on televisions.
Additionally, back in April 2017, Netflix moved from its much-maligned star rating system to a simple thumbs up/thumbs down rating. The change was widely praised by users thanks to its simplicity. If you like a title, give it a thumbs up and Netflix will recommend more content like it. Not your cup of tea? Go all Ancient Rome on that piece of trash and give it the thumbs down. You'll see less content like it show up in your feed. It makes sense: when you're trying to refine your feed, you don't really want to waste time giving a show a full five-star critical assessment.
You can add to the list other minor improvements that make streaming a breeze. Netflix users can skip the intro of a show and, thankfully, stop auto-plays of trailers and previews when browsing the site. You can download titles for offline viewing on mobile devices and on laptops running Windows 10 if you use the Netflix app. Closed captions and audio descriptions are widely available for most tiles in the library. Subscribers can also see which titles are trending in their geographical area at any given time, which might make finding something to watch a less daunting experience. Netflix also partnered with Foxtel to make the platform easily accessible on Foxtel's iQ boxes.
Verdict: Is Netflix worth it?
Has Netflix's journey Down Under been a success? Yes. While the company has had its ups and downs over the last few years, Netflix is still going strong thanks to its dedication to produce original content and its seamless streaming experience. Despite new services popping up left and right, the giant remains a force to be reckoned with and makes for an excellent entertainment choice, especially for families.
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