Good news it would seem for all TV viewers out there, as Foxtel announced earlier this week (4th September) that it is knocking 50% off their Essentials Pack (40 channels, Foxtel iQ & Foxtel Go) when you sign up to a new 6 month plan. Additionally, if you sign up to this Foxtel deal online, they will also waive the $75 installation fee. All in all, you will be looking at a monthly cost of $25 should you decide to take them up on the offer.
A healthy step in the right direction for Foxtel. However, I'm wondering how much of this move is driven by pure innovation and a desire to offer customers better value products, versus being driven primarily by ensuring pre-emptive measures are taken to acquire as many new customers as possible ahead of U.S. giant Netflix's rumoured arrival to Australian in early 2015?
Netflix, the worlds largest online streaming service, is currently enjoyed by an estimated 200,000 Aussies at the moment despite not having officially launched here yet. But at what cost? To access Netflix from Australia you will need to make use of a VPN service that allows your device to appear as if it's in a country where Netflix officially offers its services. Requiring a VPN account as well as a separate Netflix account might sound to some like a potential a headache. In reality though, both are very simple to set up.
Many argue that the variety of content which Netflix has in its arsenal is a major driving force behind Foxtel customers choosing to explore this option. The question then becomes, does Foxtel's latest subscription discount promo offer enough value to justify selecting them over Netflix though? The answer to that will (to a large extent) come down to what it is exactly that you/family members enjoy watching most on TV. Thus having a clear overview of both the content variety as well as the pricing of Foxtel and Netflix is the first step to helping you make a decision.
Foxtel's Essential Pack discount offer, which expires within the next 48 hours, gives you the following:
- Has over 40 channels including FOX8, Lifestyle, TVH!TS, ARENA, MTV, National Geographic and Universal.
- Foxtel iQ (pause, rewind & record live TV).
- Foxtel Go (watch shows on your mobile, tablet and PC).
- Essentials customers will also have free access to the HBO channel showcase.
- Costs $25 per month for their "short" 6 month plan.
In addition, Foxtel has also dropped its prices on certain premium services too. Their Movies pack now costs $20 per month, the Sports Pack $25 per month and the Drama Pack $20 per month. The Entertainment Plus, Documentaries and Kids packs are now priced at $10 per month.
A new addition to the Drama pack is the BoxSets channel. This provides access to every episode of past series from Foxtel’s most popular dramas (e.g. Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, The Newsroom, Entourage and Band of Brothers).
It's worth pointing out though that certain channels have also been removed from the Entertainment package. These include popular kiddie channels like the Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, all of which can now be found in the above mentioned Kids pack. You'll also find there’s a monthly premium for HD content which costs yet another $10 on top of your existing subscription fees.
Getting access to Netflix is a two step process at this stage as not only will you need an account with them but, as mentioned at the start, another one with a VPN service provider too. A popular choice in Australia for the latter is Getflix. Thus to start watching Netflix content, you'll need to take the following steps:
- Visit Getflix and sign up for an account (they have a 14 day free trial).
- Follow the instructions depending on your device (PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Wii, iPad, Android).
- Sign up for your Netflix account and start watching (Netflix have a 30 day free trial).
A Getflix account will cost $3.95 USD ($4.20 AUD) and a Netflix account will cost $8.99 USD ($9.50 AUD) bringing the grand total to $13.70 AUD. So looking at the basic costs, Netflix is just under half the price of Foxtel per month. But more importantly, what do you get for your money?
If you love series and spend considerable portions of your TV-watching time enjoying them, then look no further. Netflix is the daddy of series offering the unbeaten home run when it comes to both breadth and depth of variety.
If you have children, Netflix is another goldmine. For example, within the dropdown menu for children you are given a selection of kids characters to choose from with approximately 170 listed (based on their content in the US). Each one contains a range of viewing options - cartoons, films, and shows. Ultimately, it pretty much blows Foxtel's kids content offering out of the water and is a category of viewing that Netflix has realised the importance of and is constantly updating.
Don't forget too that Netflix is no longer simply an online video streaming company. It's also stepped into the film production business producing hit shows itself like "Orange Is the New Black" and "House of Cards" in an effort to counter the rising costs of licensing for TV/film productions from other sources. This should give customers access to increasing volumes of new releases, something that in the past has been the one criticism of Netflix's overall service (e.g. current seasons of TV shows are not available).
However, live sports is not something provided within the Netflix arsenal. So if you are looking for your regular AFL or other sporting fix, Netflix is likely to serve only as a bolt-on service to your current viewing subscription service/s.
The good thing about Netflix though is that unlike Foxtel's Essential pack subscription, which requires a minimum 6 month sign up period, you can cancel the contract with the click of the button which causes it to expire on your next billing date. Also, as implied in the opening part of this section, both Getflix and Netflix have free trials which will give you two weeks to try out the services for yourself without spending a cent.
Starting with the costs, for simplicity sake of making a comparison, I would imagine that many Foxtel Essential customers are likely to also take up an additional add-on pack to make the overall viewing options arguably less limited. Basic add-on packs would cost either an extra $10 (i.e. Entertainment Plus, Documentaries or Kids packs - with the last one being the most likely in my opinion) or the Sports pack at an extra $25. This would make your cost comparison $35/$50 a month for Foxtel versus $13.70 for Netflix.
The next consideration should be your preference on the type of content that you watch most. If news, sports and reality TV shows take up most of your viewing time, then Netflix is unlikely to have much of an appeal to you. However, if you watch series or movies even sporadically over any given month then it would certainly make a lot of sense. The same applies for anyone with kids as the content available for them is vast.
If you're not already aware, Foxtel does have an online video streaming service called Presto which contains a wide variety of recent box office hits, loads of movie genres along with plenty of all time classics. It only costs $9.99 per month and like Netflix is based on a month by month subscription service (i.e. no requirement for a long term contract). Despite being a few dollars less per month, however, the only real benefit over Netflix as I see it is that you will be able to access a limited set of newer films. When it comes to the overall choice of content available though, Presto is dwarfed by Netflix making the extra $3-$4 per month for the latter service a no-brainer.
In the end, if you consider the volume and quality of content you're getting for your money through Netflix, it's unlikely that you'll be disappointed. Another option could be to sign up to Foxtel's Essentials pack but rather than take up one of their $10,$20 or $25 add on packs, you could join Netflix instead which should more than adequately cover your movie, documentary, TV show, and kids viewing needs.
What will be interesting to watch, is which new discounts or products are released by Foxtel in 2015 upon Netflix's arrival into the country. Foxtel have already made an official confirmation that it will be bringing a bundled television, broadband and home phone package to Australia in the first quarter of 2015 although prices are still unknown.