Television has changed a lot over the years, especially since streaming services like Netflix and Stan launched in Australia and transformed the way we consume TV, giving us access to endless hours of entertainment whenever we want it.
In this article we explore five of the top subscription TV and movie streaming services in Australia, and cover some of the free streaming services available to you. We provide tips on how to decide what service is right for you, and list what you need to get started with streaming video content at home.
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What is a streaming service?
Before we get onto streaming services, let’s talk about what streaming means. Streaming refers to the delivery of audio and video, such as TV shows and music, to your device over the internet in real time. In other words, streaming lets you instantly watch or listen to something on your TV, smartphone, tablet, or computer so long as you’re connected to the internet.
Streaming services deliver entertainment straight to your device. Think of TV and movie streaming services like your local video store when they used to be the main way to access a wide range of movies and shows – except now, they’re all online and in most cases you pay a subscription fee to access the content. Subscription streaming services like Netflix and Stan are also referred to as subscription video on demand (SVOD).
Streaming is different to downloading in that the latter stores a copy of a media file on your device for you to access at any time, even when you’re not connected to the internet. For example, audio streaming services let you download podcasts to your device so you can listen to them when you’re out, say on a walk or road trip, to save you using your mobile data.
For more information on streaming services, see our short course on catch-up TV and video streaming services.
What you need to stream shows and movies
A slow internet connection can lead to a poor streaming experience, so it helps to have fast internet. 50Mbps download speed is good for smaller households but if you have a few people at home streaming at the same time and on several devices, it’s best to go for a faster connection. You can test your current internet speed by going to websites such as Speedtest.net
Streaming shows uses up a lot of data. Most home broadband plans include unlimited data so you don’t need to worry about chewing through your data allowance. However, if you normally use your tablet or smartphone to watch shows when you're out and about and not connected to your home Wi-Fi, you will need a high mobile data plan.
Device to stream shows
This includes a smart TV, tablet, smartphone or computer. Most smart TVs already have popular streaming service apps pre-installed, however if yours doesn’t you can download them from your TV’s app store.
If yours isn’t a smart TV (here’s how to tell) you can use a streaming device that plugs directly into your TV so you can display what’s playing on your smartphone or tablet on your TV, including YouTube videos and even your photos. Google Chromecast and Amazon Fire are popular examples of streaming devices usually found at electronic retail stores.
A streaming service account
You’ll need to create an account with a streaming service to access their shows. Subscription streaming services require you to provide some information to create an account, including your name, an email address, and a payment method, even when signing up for a free trial. Streaming services generally offer no lock-in contracts so you can cancel at any time, but it’s always best to check the cancellation policy just to be sure.
Top subscription TV and movie streaming services
Here are five of the top video streaming services in Australia.
Netflix is one of the longest running and most popular video streaming services in Australia. It has an extensive library to choose from including must-see content only found on Netflix (known as Netflix Originals) such as The Crown, as well as a wide range of shows like Ozark and David Attenborough’s Our Planet series.
Netflix has a range of plans starting with the low-cost basic with ads. While Netflix doesn’t offer free trials, you can change or cancel your plan at any time with no lock-in contracts or cancellation fees.
Find out how you can watch Netflix on your TV .
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video , also known as Prime Video, offers thousands of new and old movies, exclusive Amazon content, and access to a catalogue of TV shows and movies you can rent or buy on top of your subscription plan.
A Prime Video subscription also comes with other perks including free delivery on eligible Amazon items, ad-free music and podcasts on Amazon Music, and unlimited access to eligible ebooks and audiobooks on Prime Reading.
Prime Video has just the one plan you can access with either a monthly or yearly subscription.
Discover how to watch Amazon Prime Video on your favourite device .
Disney Plus (or Disney+) is home to all the new and classic Disney films as well as other favourites like National Geographic documentaries and the Star Wars and Marvel collection.
Like Prime Video, Disney Plus has just the one plan which you can cancel at any time without cancellation fees.
Find out how to watch Disney Plus on your TV .
Stan is an Australian streaming service owned by Nine Entertainment. Its catalogue has grown considerably since its launch, offering a wide selection of movies and shows, including the award-winning Yellowstone, Hacks, and a range of Stan Originals.
Stan has three base plans to choose from, and for the sports lovers, a sport package you can add to your monthly subscription. You can cancel at any time.
The Stan website has helpful information on how to watch Stan on your TV and with a streaming device such as Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV.
Binge is part of the Foxtel Group so you may recognise some of its shows if you’ve ever had a Foxtel subscription. You’ll find favourites such as The White Lotus, Succession, Game of Thrones, and Little Big Lies.
Binge has three plans based on the number of screens you can watch Binge on at the same time. Like other streaming services, there are no lock-in contracts so you can cancel at any time.
Find out how to watch Binge on your TV .
Free streaming services
If paying a monthly subscription to watch TV doesn’t sound appealing, you’re in luck because there are other options you can access for free.
The main Australian TV networks (SBS, ABC, Channels 7, 9, and 10) each have their own streaming service with a range of live and on-demand shows you can watch at any time.
You can watch the free-to-air streaming services by either downloading the app to your smart TV (the latest models already have them pre-installed) or by going direct to their website on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
While these streaming services are free, you may still need to create an account with a username and password to access the shows.
YouTube has millions of videos available to stream on your TV or device. You can find a video on practically anything you like, some uploaded by individuals and others professional production quality shows.
Some of the most watched videos on YouTube include news, comedy and sports clips. You can browse through content in the Explore section where you’ll also find movies and shows available for free with ads or to buy or rent. You can find out more about YouTube in our free short course.
Tips to help you decide what streaming service is right for you
With so many options available, how do you know which subscription streaming service is best for you? Here are a few tips to help you decide.
- Speak to family and friends. 1 in 3 Australian households have three or more services, so you’ll find people are willing to share their experience with you.
- Many streaming services offer free trials to new customers so check their website to see what’s available. You’ll need to provide your credit or debit card details to sign up, so remember to cancel the trial plan before it finishes to avoid getting charged.
- It can be hard to know what’s available on each platform, but streaming guide services like JustWatch let you search for your favourite movies or shows to find where they're streaming.
- None of the streaming services have lock-in contracts so you have the freedom to cancel at any time and resubscribe at a later date.