View Finder: Alas, poor Presto, we hardly knew ye

Nick Broughall 3 February 2017

presto is closed

In this week's View Finder we bid a fond farewell to the magical streaming service that failed, and dream about Netflix mind control.

And so it was a with a whimper earlier this week that Foxtel's unsuccessful streaming platform Presto officially went offline. It's never a happy day when a company shutters its doors, and the reality is that while Presto was never really armed with the technology or resources to throw down as a real challenger to Netflix, its presence went a long way to helping establish the current video streaming marketplace.

Right now, if you point your browser at the Presto website you will instead be redirected to a transition offer to Foxtel Play (now Foxtel Now). And while Foxtel Play has itself improved dramatically as a platform over the years, it's still a substantially more complicated offering than Presto was for a number of users.

So, let's take a moment to remember Presto for its accomplishments. It was a bit of a surprise when it was first announced, really, and while it was very obviously a pre-emptive strike against Netflix, it managed to kickstart the conversation on streaming in a way that Quickflix never could.

It had teething issues to be sure – when it launched at $20 a month for a subscription exclusively offering standard definition movies, many people thought they were having a laugh. It may have even inspired some people to sign up to Netflix US with a VPN.

But as time went on the price came down, TV shows were added to the mix and high definition content even joined the party.

When Netflix launched in Australia, Presto upped its marketing campaign significantly. The service was extremely generous with its free trials - you could go for months without having to pay simply by stacking your Presto trial offers, from the one we offered here on finder to the ones on the back of shop-a-dockets. That decision no doubt went a long way to help boosting the entire segment, not just the Presto brand.

But in the end, marketing wasn't enough to save the platform. The decision to pull the plug on Presto must have been hard, but in the end it was the right one.

Speaking of magic...

It seems that twice a year the staff at Netflix hold hack days, where the engineers get to play around with cool ideas rather than just working on delivering the epic platform we all know and love today. And at the most recent hack day, it appears some of the team decided to dive into the brave new world of mind control.

The result? A possible solution to the maddening problem of laziness. Using a Muse "brain-sensing" headband, the team involved were able to control the Netflix app using minor head movements and the power of thought.

The video shows them having a lot of fun with this, but the reality is that there are some real potential use cases for this technology, the most obvious being as a control mechanism for people with physical disabilities.

Interestingly, the mind control wasn't the only amazing hack. There was also a Picture-in-Picture functionality that lets you see what other users on your account are watching, so you can be sure your kids aren't secretly streaming stuff they shouldn't be watching.

Get streaming this week

Things are super exciting in streaming land this week. For a start, Foxtel Play has FX's Legion all set to premiere, which promises to be an epic and unique take on comic book television.

There's also Santa Clarita Diet, the Drew Barrymore zombie comedy dropping today, which promises to be a lot of flesh-eating fun.

But perhaps even more epic and exciting than both of those impressive new shows landing this week is the appearance of two masterpieces of 80s television on Netflix. These two shows defined a generation, before largely disappearing into the ether.

I'm talking, of course, about He-Man and She-Ra. The first season of both shows is available now on Netflix, which should keep you occupied for the weekend.


Each week, View Finder rounds up the latest news in streaming TV and movies for Australians.

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