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Netflix vs Stan, Foxtel Now and Amazon Prime: Australian streaming services compared

Movies

The Godfather

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

As with most SVOD services, the titles available on Netflix, Stan, Foxtel and Amazon Prime Video change occasionally according to content licensing agreements. That said, each service has a pretty decent collection of films aimed at slightly different audiences.

When it first launched, Australian Netflix had a much smaller content offering than its US counterpart. However, its focus on Original content over licensed material has made that issue largely irrelevant, with a huge selection of quality shows and movies now available.

Netflix Original movies like Bird Box, Bright and the critically acclaimed Roma have found much larger audiences on the streaming service than they likely would have if released through traditional channels, while unusual film experiments like The Ballad of Buster Scruggs might never have been made without today's streaming model of distribution.

Amazon Prime Video offers a number of classic older films, though not many recent blockbusters are currently available to stream. Its recent Amazon Original film The Neon Demon, for instance, is currently geo-restricted.

Still, fans of B-grade cinema, including straight-to-video '90s martial arts movies, '80s horror movies and sleazy grindhouse flicks will find plenty to love on Amazon Prime Video. In fact, it blows all of the other services out of the water in this regard, with a rather big back catalogue of these kinds of films. 

As was mentioned earlier, you'll need a Movies package to watch feature films through Foxtel Now, though that will set you back $20 per month on top of a $10 Starter pack. Many of the movies are new releases, showing much of the content you'd expect to see on live Foxtel.

For a while there, Stan's amazing partnership with Disney gave the service a huge leg up over the competition when it comes to licensed content, with access to a wide selection of Disney, Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm movies on offer. However, that deal has since expired, and Disney content can only be streamed from Disney Plus now. 

Still, it does provide a fairly big selection of Roadshow Entertainment titles, though previously available films like Mad Max: Fury Road have since dropped off the service. Thankfully, huge franchises like The Lord of the Rings and The Matrix are present and accounted for. 

A content deal with MGM also provides Stan with a large back catalogue of classic films, including the entire James Bond series in glorious 4K quality, along with The Silence of the Lambs, When Harry Met Sally and a huge selection of Woody Allen films.

Stan has always been the leading streaming service when it comes to art films and world cinema, including access to films from over 45 countries in more than 70 languages, but now you can count mainstream blockbusters among its many licensing accomplishments. 

Streaming quality

Presto Quality

All three services offer HD streams (unless you're subscribed to Netflix's lowest tier), however, Netflix is unquestionably the leader when it comes to streaming quality, as it offers the most 4K HDR content (top pricing tier only) of any of the services listed here.

Netflix Originals, with some exceptions, are generally available in 4K streaming quality. The service has also started streaming HDR (high-dynamic-range) and Dolby Vision content for many of its original shows and movies.

The service has an adaptive bit rate that adjusts itself based on the quality of your internet connection. It should be noted that, even if you have a blazing fast connection, Netflix will occasionally fail to reach full resolution during primetime hours due to congestion.

Stan also uses adaptive bit rate technology, however it also offers users the ability to select the streaming quality of its shows (where available). The Ultra setting offers full 4K resolution, though you'll need to subscribe to the Premium package to see the benefits of the Ultra HD upgrade.

Unlike its competitors, Stan allows users to select the quality of their streams on smart devices, media devices and smart TVs. Simply select the cog icon and choose between Low, Medium and High quality streams. This is especially handy if you're having buffering problems or if you're streaming off mobile data.

With Netflix adding offline viewing to its subscription price, allowing using to download a selection of shows and movies to their devices for viewing outside of Wi-Fi networks, the service immediately increased its overall value. 

Thankfully, Stan has followed suit, and now allows subscribers to download the vast majority of its content. This makes its $10 monthly price point even more of a bargain than it already was. 

Amazon Prime Video also offers 4K HDR content, though with the varying quality of the shows and movies on offer, it's a little tricky to know what's available in SD, HD or Ultra HD until you start watching it. Original shows are, for the most part, available in 4K. 

Foxtel Now is said to offer HD streams, but the quality is a mixed bag. Often blurry or with overly saturated colours, the picture quality here is a far cry from what Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video are offering. This really changes on a show-by-show basis. Game of Thrones looks pretty clean, though.

Verdict

Though each service has its own strengths and weaknesses, Netflix is unquestionably the winner when it comes to device compatibility, original content and stream quality.

Its library of Netflix Originals continues to grow and maintain a generally high level of quality, with the service producing the kind of content that gives HBO a run for its money when it comes to premium programming.

When you ignore its standard definition pricing option (and we ignore it pretty hard around these parts), Stan's flat AU$10 subscription fee is definitely more appealing for people who want access to a HD stream, but when you consider how many original shows Netflix produces, a couple of extra bucks a month is hardly a deal-breaker.

It's great that Amazon Prime Video has made its way to Australia, and while it still has a long way to go in terms of growing its content library and list of compatible devices, it continues to add new content constantly, filling out the content selection with a number of gems. 

On the plus side, the service is quite inexpensive at the moment, so if you want to try it out for yourself anyway, you can do so without breaking the budget. 

We love the sheer amount of content available on Foxtel Now (it really does leave the competition in the dust in this regard), though getting a decent selection up will hurt your wallet in the long run. 

Still, when all is said and done, there's no denying that Netflix truly is the king of streaming media in Australia.