I’ve been pondering Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) services.
The thinking goes like this:
Let’s say I want to watch Breaking Bad. I’ve heard great things about it, and I love high-quality long-form drama that good television provides.
Blu-ray is the best way to watch this type of drama, for the ultimate in (domestically-available) quality picture and sound. But I don’t want to buy all the Blu-rays as I’ll probably only watch it once, then will have paid a bunch of money for a bunch of discs I have to find space for in the bookshelf.
And discs aren’t always perfect. I started watching my Newsroom season 2 Blu-rays, which I got last year. The first disc has a fault. Episodes skip. I have no idea if I have the receipt anywhere. Mind you, in a decade of buying DVDs and Blu-rays, this is actually the first time I’ve struck such a problem.)
The emergence of SVOD services offers a solution. Pay a monthly fee of about ten dollars (even a year’s worth would be a lot less than buying all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad on DVD) to watch video streaming onto my television.
Most of the services will work with computers, and also through Android/iOS apps via Chromecast onto a TV.
As it happens, I just bought a Chromecast. At $50, it’s cheaper than the official WiFi adapter for my television, and infinitely more flexible. Neat device. Youtube looks great on it.
I’ve also tried iView on it. It’s choppy — the ABC know about this, it’s only a beta version. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.
So anyway, which SVOD service to go for?
Stan (Fairfax/Channel 9)
- $9.99 per month. Works with ChromeCast. Includes HD. Uses Silverlight if watching on a PC browser — ugh!
- Includes Breaking Bad and the prequel Better Call Saul.
- Looks like they’re considering original programming too.
- There’s a 30 day free trial
- They make it really hard to find the price, but it’s $9.99/month if you just want streaming, not the DVD rental option.
- Includes HD. Great content, but most HBO material seems to be premium, eg $2.99 per episode.
- Trial offer: 3 weeks free
- Set to launch on March 24th, and expected to be about $10 a month — at least for Standard Definition — there apparently will be HD and Ultra-HD plans as well.
- Presumably will include Netflix exclusives such as House Of Cards — which I’ve started watching on Blu-ray, and am loving. It looks glorious in HD, by the way.
- Safe to assume it won’t include HBO content, given they are competitors in the USA.
- Unmetered on iiNet (which I use), as well as Optus and presumably more ISPs to follow
Foxtel Presto (Foxtel/Channel 7)
- Apparently no HD. $9.99 for TV, or $9.99 for movies, or $14.99 if you want both. (I’m probably more interested in TV than film.)
- Presumably a lot of channel 7 content will be on here, including a lot of ITV stuff, since they have content deals.
- Also seems to have some Foxtel-produced television on it, such as the adaption of Cloudstreet.
- Speculation this will include Game Of Thrones, but that’s far from certain, as HBO apparently doesn’t allow it on SVOD services. If it does I’m probably sold. It does seem to include older HBO material such as Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom (season 1 only, drat) and The Sopranos (all).
- I’m quite keen to see Tony Robinson’s (Australian) Time Walks, which was made for Foxtel — I can’t see it on there though. You’d think they’d put on as much Foxtel-exclusive content as they could, to differentiate themselves.
ChromeCast and Presto had a free 2 month subscription offer (it expired at the end of February), so I’ve signed up to Presto and had a little look. The range isn’t huge — there’s probably more shows on iView, though fewer episodes — but is growing all the time.
The playback quality seems okay. The iPad app is a bit beta-ish when using it with Chromecast though — normal playback onto the iPad shows, as you’d expect, a Pause or Stop button. When sending it to the Chromecast, all you can do is Stop Chromecasting. There’s no actual Pause — all you can do is stop, then if you want to start again, it’ll give you the option of resuming. Even skipping back doesn’t seem to work.
Which is/are worth paying for?
HD would be very nice to have, though bandwidth might be an issue with the services that offer it. Stan recommends 3.5 mbps for 720p, or 6.5 mbps for 1080p, and I’d expect the other services to be similar. (Hmm, I just ran a test: line speed 9.2 mbps, download speed 1.12 MB/s).
I’ll keep playing with Presto, and given Stan also has a free 30 day trial, try that out as well. But I’ll definitely try Netflix when it’s available too.
One more thing… if you like House Of Cards, I suspect you’ll love this Sesame Street parody: