As we’re all self isolating we’re all watching more streaming services. Thankfully there’s a lot more choice beyond Netflix in most parts of the world. For many of us though, money is tight and we’re looking to scramble and save, particularly if you’re young or you’ve lost your casual job.
We highly recommend a combination of streaming services and, to make it far more affordable, going for multiple screen plans and sharing the cost across friends is a good option.
So we’ve sampled and reviewed all the major streaming services to make our recommendations to you. Our goal was to consider the best coverage of latest release movies and TV shows as well as a good depth of a back catalogue. We emphasise best value and not lowest price. While you may be able to get Netflix for yourself at $9.99 per month you’re missing out on some key exclusive content and a deeper catalogue on some of the other platforms. Being on just one streaming service, no matter which one, means you’ll eventually exhaust the catalogue and will start to recommend the same content over and over again. For just a little bit extra and if you’re able to convince 2 other friends to come onboard you could have a wide coverage of current must watch shows and a rich depth in a back catalogue.
Some of our caveats in our recommendation;
- We’re considering the service at the prices they’re currently offered at. If you’re lucky enough to get AppleTV+ free for a year or Prime Video as part of your Amazon Prime subscription that’s all well and good but we’ll be judging services based on how much they would cost on a monthly basis and their content offering
- We focused on figuring out the best value for 3 screens; so you and 2 friends. Three screens seems be the standard next-plan offering by the streaming services and we figure it’s easier to agree to others to this compared to 3 or more. Of course, more people could benefit from this if you have loved ones watching off the same screen as you and they don’t require their own account.
- We’re not proposing you do anything illegal here. Everything we’re recommending is within the Terms & Conditions of of the provider and within the parameters of the plan we’re recommending
- As much as we hate to assume any one service should be a given we consider Netflix to be a standard as part of our recommendation. Aside from the price and its breadth and depth of content it’s hard to go past some its must-have, much-talked-about content. Tiger King, Bird Box, House of Cards anyone?
Okay, so let’s get to it! We’ll do a quick summary of each streaming service (apart from Netflix) and a rundown of various pricing options. Finally we’ll give our recommendation of what combination of streaming services we should offer.
Stan (Australia Only)
Stan is the local hero of the streaming business in Australia. It has been around longer than Netflix in Australia and seems only to have gotten better with time. It has a deep back catalogue of current and iconic TV shows such as 30 Rock, The West Wing and Deadwood as well as a rich offering of current and iconic movies such as Parasite and the James Bond franchise respectively.
It grabs exclusive partnerships with major US networks NBC/Viacom cable channels such as Showtime to bring great current content such as Billions, Black Monday and Ray Donovan.
With parent company NineCo it develops local productions such as Bloom and The True History of the Kelly Gang. To keep local flavour going it has a deal with ABC for its back catalogue so you’ll favourite series like Utopia, Upper Middle Bogan and to keep the kips happy The Wiggles and most of ABC Kid’s back catalogue.
Stan’s Standard Plan is $14 a month which allows 3 screens access to the service (to download and stream) so equates to $4.67 per month. They currently have a special for the premium plan lowered to $14 a month for the first month after which subsequent months are billed at $17 a month. We would still recommend to consider the Standard plan only.
Stan allows a 30 day trial and a cancel anytime policy so it’s an easy choice to see if you and your friends get good value out of it. I would recommend binge watching Deadwood, The Bold Type or Billions with your friends to see if it’s worth your money.
Amazon Prime Video
It feels weird to say this about anything that Amazon runs but Prime Video fees like an underrated service, at least in the local marketplace. With a slew of new original content like Hunters and exclusive content deals giving them access to shows such as Picard it really deserves a closer look.
The other great thing about Prime’s Video offering is that it’s extremely affordable and their access is a little more ‘pliable’. Essentially they have one plan; $6.99 per month as part of an Amazon Prime membership. This one plan gives you the ability to stream content to 3 screens simultaneously. One slight caveat is that if you can only stream the exact same content simultaneously to 2 screens; so if 3 screens are watching different content at the one time then that’s ok.
One rather hidden way to get it for a low cut rate of $3.99 per month is to subscribe to it via iTunes. This gives you access to Prime Video in all the possible ways (with the same above limitations) with the only major difference is that technically does not give you Amazon Prime membership. So if you’re not a regular shopper on Amazon or a big user of Amazon Music or their other premium services then the iTunes method maybe the option for you.
Prime Video has a good mix of back catalogue as well as Amazon Originals such as Hunters (with Al Pacino), Jack Ryan and Star Trek’s Picard. They’ve got relatively good access to latest release movies such as Once Upon time in Hollywood and Rocketman now available. Definitely not as good as Netflix or Stan and the deeper you go the more questionable the titles.
One last area where Prime Video is weak in is local content. While they’ve ramped it up recently with local sports documentaries (eg, The Test), and stepped in with Stand Up Comedy specials (in lieu of shows and festivals being cancelled) their back catalogue for local content is noticeably weak.
At $3.99 a month it works out to just $1.33 per friend per month. This makes it extremely good value and seems to be a no-brainer to include it as part of your streaming combo.
One of the new streaming kids on the block, Disney+ has been available since November last year. As the name suggests it includes the current back catalogue of Disney movies and TV shows. If you didn’t know it includes movies from the Marvel & Star Wars universe as well as content from National Geographic & 20th Century Fox so includes TV Shows such as The Simpsons and Gordon Ramsay:Uncharted.
While Disney acquired Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox in recent years it doesn’t mean all those studio’s movies are on Disney+. For example the Indiana Jones (on Stan), and Die Hard series aren’t available.
They seem to be focusing on exclusive content, doubling down on their Lucasfilm and Marvel Studios and investments with TV series such as The Mandolarian and the upcoming Loki. To many people this is the must-have content that makes the service worthwhile.
Disney+ essentially only has one plan on offer; $8.99 per month or $89.99 per year which you can share across 4 screens. Even though that works out to $2.99 per friend we don’t think Disney+ could be considered your main streaming service as its depth is somewhat lacking. Obviously aimed at children and families, if that kind of content is your jam then we would say go ahead.
If you’re interested in just the original content (and you’re patient enough to wait till all the content you want is available) one option would be to just sign up for the free trial and binge-watch all the content you’re interested without signing on for the full subscription.
The iPhone maker is one of the more interesting entrants into the streaming market. With no ‘natural’ content assets but deep pockets and an unmatched hardware network that results in a strategy is the most differentiated.
With Apple TV+ Apple makes no apologies in its position of not offering the broadest or deepest content and just focusing on exclusive original content. Think of Apple TV+ more as a well funded and integrated CableTV channel rather than a full streaming video platform (that’s what they’re trying to make Apple TV)
The original content is ok, if you like US productions. With starts like Jennifer Aniston, Jason Mamoa and Steve Carell headlining some of their shows the attraction is relatively decent. However with no local content the service in Australia is left a little wanting.
Even at a price of $7.99 per month giving you access for up to 6 people it would be hard to justify the value of the service as a standalone or as part of a combo. However, as the service is offered for free if you buy a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or AppleTV the ease of getting it for free is pretty easy.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Netflix (Standard Plan) + Stan (Standard Plan) + Prime Video (iTunes Subscription
Total Cost = AUD$30.98
Cost per friend = $10.33
Also, don’t forget the free streaming services offered by the TV broadcasters as well. All the major broadcasters offer their latest local productions and current, even live, selection of news, sport and reality shows for streaming as well as a good stable of local and international TV shows and movies they have the rights to. They’re pretty good (in particular SBS!) so would check them out. One caveat is that for currently airing international TV shows make sure you watch episodes as early as you can as they typically have limited availability windows.