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Australian viewers have long faced paying a hefty price for a pay TV subscription or waiting for shows to be broadcast on free-to-air TV. Not any longer. These days, the line-up of on-demand movie and TV services in Australia is extensive.

Netflix, Stan, Amazon Prime Video, Foxtel Now, Disney Plus, Google Play Movies & TV and AppleTV+ are all competing for our eyeballs and credit cards. But with this many options, how do you pick the best service to suit your viewing needs and your budget?

TV and Online

Streaming means watching as you download, whereas “downloading” a video usually refers to permanently storing the file on your device for watching at a later time. Streaming services are also called “video on demand” (VOD) services, and generally come in two models: monthly subscription and buy/rent.

Subscription services

Users pay a monthly fee to access a library of movies, TV shows, documentaries etc. You can stream content as many times as you’d like or download it for offline viewing within a set period. Most services offer a combination of third-party content and exclusives produced or purchased by the company. These are typically called “originals.”

Offline viewing is similar to rentals. You can download select TV shows and movies to watch at a later date without using up your data each time you view them, depending on what type of device you’re downloading to at no additional fee. These downloads usually expire after 48-hours or so, but you can download them again or stream the content online.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About TV

Some subscription services, such as Netflix and Stan, offer tiered pricing that increases based on the picture quality (SD, HD and 4K) and number of users. Others, like Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, let you access everything for a single monthly fee.

Rental and purchase prices vary based on a few factors including:

  • The content’s age (e.g. old and new films).
  • The content’s popularity
  • Quality (SD, HD and 4K)
  • The source. Big Hollywood productions often cost more than independent or arthouse films, for example.
  • Sales and bundles. It can be cheaper to purchase an entire season of a TV show rather than individual episodes.

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TV news, articles and information

Each free-to-air TV broadcaster has an online catch-up service, which lets you view programs on your smartphone, PC, game console, smart TV etc., for a limited period. Most are online for two to three weeks after airing, though some can be longer.

Some are starting to follow the streaming service model in a few ways. They:

  • Occasionally upload an entire series at a time.
  • Stream original content and syndicated series that don’t go to air.
  • Stream “additional content” similar to DVD bonus features (exclusive interviews, behind the scenes etc).
  • Provide large film libraries (particularly SBS) for free.
  • Re-upload previous episodes of popular shows when a new season is due to air.

Commercial network apps tend to stick to broadcast content with the occasional original program or unaired syndicated series. ABC iView and SBS On Demandhave much larger online-only libraries.

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