View Finder: Netflix confirms its dominance as Foxtel Play reboots
Offline Netflix will change your life, while Foxtel Play is now much more affordable. It's been a big week for Australian streaming.
Yesterday started out just like any other day. I woke up, swearing at my alarm, before rolling over to quickly check my news and social media feeds to see what I missed while my body recharged. But unlike most mornings, yesterday I was slapped in the face that Netflix was suddenly offering offline viewing for its iOS and Android apps.
This was exciting! Long had the black spots on my train line stopped me from having a reliable streaming service on my morning commute, but now I'd be able to download shows to my tablet and watch effortlessly.
It was even more exciting considering how dismissive Netflix had been of the idea just two years ago, when Cliff Edwards, Netflix's director of corporate communications and technology, told techradar "It's never going to happen".
That was followed by Netflix's chief product officer Neil Hunt telling Gizmodo that he didn't think the idea was very compelling just over a year ago. Talking about Amazon's decision to launch offline viewing, he said, "It's not going to be instant, you have to have the right storage on your device, you have to manage it, and I'm just not sure people are actually that compelled to do that, and that it's worth providing that level of complexity.”
Well, it turns out it was. I spent the moments between getting ready by updating my Netflix apps and downloading Sense 8 to watch on the train. The whole season took up less than 3GB of storage, was super quick to download and looked pretty good at the standard quality setting.
For day one, I'm super happy with the offline service. I'm keen to see the quality difference between standard and high, but am wary about the bigger capacity demands. Because the one thing I do find very disappointing is the inability to store shows on a MicroSD card with Android devices. Hopefully that gets updated soon – Android devices in particular tend to rely on external storage, and not offering that is going to restrict functionality significantly.
But the content selection is solid – there's no shortage of things to watch, that's for sure. Yes, I'd like to have everything from Netflix at my beck and call, but I'm happy to start here while Netflix works out its licensing arrangements.
With all that in mind, it's not hard to see why Netflix continues to grow in Australia. The latest Roy Morgan research shows that while subscriber numbers appeared to level off between April and July this year, August saw the streaming platform get a second wind and start growing again. The Roy Morgan numbers now suggest that Netflix's Australian audience is over 5.75 million.
That number comes through 2,223,000 household subscriptions across the country, which is pretty impressive for a service not quite two years old in this country.
Wondering what caused the change? Well, a quick look at what was new on Netflix around that time shows that Stranger Things dropped mid-way through July (and we learnt last week that the audience ramped up for that show over time). Baz Luhrmann's The Get Down dropped in August, and both Narcos S2 and Luke Cage launched in September.
In other words, it seems like Netflix's Originals strategy appears to be paying off in a big way.
Playing for keeps
Foxtel Play (now known as Foxtel Now) launched its new pricing structure yesterday, making it the cheapest way to get Foxtel, ever. When Game of Thrones season comes around next year and the annual discussion of piracy versus payment comes up, this new structure will make it a much more attractive option for many people.
The packs start at $10 a month, though you'll need the $15 Pop or $15 Drama pack to get Showcase, which is where Game of Thrones will be available. The upside of paying that price is that you'll also get a heap of other awesome HBO content too, like the incredible Westworld.
It's still a little disappointing that Foxtel Play doesn't offer High Definition streaming in 2016, when Netflix is pumping out 4K, and Stan has HD. We do know that it's on the roadmap, which is great news, but given the cost vs quality argument of Foxtel Play against its competitors, it's still disappointing.
In any case, don't forget the two week free trial Foxtel Play (now known as Foxtel Now) offers to get you to try the service.
Time to pray
And finally, Stan subscribers should definitely spend this weekend bingeing Preacher, which has launched on the service today. I'm a sucker for a good comic-book TV series, and Preacher is pretty solid. If you enjoyed Constantine, definitely check this out.