Netflix pricing: you probably don't want the cheapest option

23 March 2015

Netflix has officially confirmed pricing of its Australian service, launching tomorrow, in a press release sent out earlier today. Plans will begin at $8.99 for the standard definition (SD) package. HD will set you back $11.99 and finally 4K Ultra-HD is $14.99 per month, although 4K content is still pretty hard to come by.

More important than the image quality is the number of streams that you can run simultaneously. The $8.99 pack will only allow one stream. HD will get you two and the 4K Family pack will open up a solid 4 simultaneous streams, although you're going to need a pretty strong broadband connection if those four are all running in the same premises.

The middle HD pack is likely to be the popularity winner. The average household consists of more than one TV and movie viewer. You're not always all going to want to watch the same stuff at the same time, so the single stream of the SD pack may cause house tension. Conversely, the four streams of the Ultra HD pack will be too taxing for most ADSL lines. You'll need cable if you want to get this, but most Aussies don't have access to this high-speed service.

Although speed varies based on location, in general ADSL2+ connections can handle two HD streams simultaneously. Even if you have a slower connection you can bump the quality down to SD to get both going. Instead of thinking about the $3 difference between the SD and HD packs as paying for image quality, think about it as paying for the extra stream. It's a lot better than signing up to two separate $8.99 subscriptions to get the same result.

$8.99 $11.99 $14.99
Quality Standard definition
High definition
Number of simultaneous streams allowed 1 2 4
Estimated data usage 0.7GB per hour Up to 3GB per hour Up to 7GB per hour
Over a month* 36GB 156GB 364GB

*Figure based on 52 hours of TV per month, as estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics

The first month on all plans is free and there’s no lock-in contract. If you’re not sure that your internet connection could handle the strain then the best way to find out would be to sign up. If things don’t work out, you can cancel your subscription within the first month and pay nothing.

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What's the content like?

So far, the Australian content library is significantly more restricted than is its US counterpart. This was expected, but still bears repeating. If you’ve become used to the mammoth archive of an overseas version of Netflix, don’t expect an identical experience after you make the switch.

Titles at launch will include seasons 1 and 2 of Orange is the New Black, with Season 3 to air on June 12 as part of the global premiere. Seasons 1 and 2 of House of Cards is also for viewing, once again with S3 to debut exclusively through Netflix.

Tina Fey's new comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and the anticipated Marvel's Daredevil will also be available for viewers.

The library will grow in time, but for now many of the more popular shows on TV have their Australian broadcasting rights tied up with another giant subscription TV service that will remain nameless. You know the one we mean.

On a more positive note, anyone who has experienced Netflix via less-than-official means should find image quality to be much improved now that the stream is originating Down Under. You can also expect more options for viewing. Now that Netflix is legit, you can watch it on a range of devices that you would otherwise be unable, or find it difficult, to use.

Smart TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast, Apple iOS devices, Android devices, Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Wii U and Fetch TV’s second generation Set Top Box will all grant you direct access to Netflix from day one.

You can also buy Netflix gift cards at $20, $30 or $50 a pop from participating retailers including Woolies, Coles, Big W, EB Games, 7-Eleven, Australia Post and Officeworks.

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