It’s been a few months since we last published a ranking of the 10 best streaming services. The business models for streaming services have been changing over the past couple of years. The arrival of new entrants has been making it difficult for streaming brands to grow their numbers toward profitability. The platforms have been looking at finding additional income streams.
Some of the changes to business models have been chipping away at the core of what made streaming attractive for many in the first place. The quality content was a big draw, but so was affordable pricing and an ad-free environment. Now many customers are facing the prospect of having to pay more and/or having commercial interruptions.
Exclusivity is also not as critical as it once was. Series that might have previously been streaming only in one place are now turning up on other platforms after an initial period of exclusivity on the platform the content premiered on.
What’s not on the list: There are two big brands that don’t score a place on the top 10. Foxtel is a premium service that still attracts many because of the quality of content and viewing experience. However, it’s cost puts it down the list when it comes to value. What the Foxtel group has done successfully is launch lower-cost options which top both our Top 10 and our sporting streaming options.
Fetch TV is also not on our list as it is an aggregation service that doesn’t produce its content. With a $50m investment from Telstra in 2022, Fetch is certainly one way to watch much of the content on offer here.
Read about some of the initiatives and new content offerings Fetch TV revealed across 2023.
Changes ahead: Aggregation will become a battleground in 2024 as platforms look for ways to lock in subscribers. There are already platforms that sell multiple streaming services ranging from Foxtel to Prime Video to the under-appreciated Optus SubHub. Watch for aggregation options to explode though in early 2024 when the much-anticipated Foxtel group offering Hubbl arrives.
The numbers in brackets below is where we ranked the streaming platform earlier in 2023.
1. Binge (1)
It is going to take an amazing deal to unseat our perennial Beat Streaming leader. One negative this year is the cost of basic without ads has risen by $2 to $18 monthly. The $10 bargain option now comes with ads of course and it is quite a leap to the next level if you want to eliminate them.
Because Binge is part of the Foxtel group the offering continues to benefit from the content deals Foxtel secures. Binge continues to be the home of HBO which makes this deal such a bargain. One content change this year was the arrival of news channels CNN and MSNBC on the Binge platform.
Content: Australian drama productions were light on the ground in 2023 with Strife and a second season of Love Me. The line-up for 2024 will be considerably stronger with Australian Originals including the movie How to Make Gravy, The Last Anniversary, second seasons of The Twelve and Colin From Accounts and the much anticipated drama High Country.
Upgrade: If you really want to jettison the ads the cost jumps to $18 and allows viewing on two screens. If money is no object, go for the full Foxtel experience. There is always some sort of Foxtel sale underway and at the time of writing packages started at $57 monthly on a 12-month plan.
2. Netflix (3)
An ad-free experience basic sub has jumped from $11 to $17. Easing the pain a little is the arrival of the ad-supported tier which costs $7 monthly. If you want to watch some of the many programs Netflix makes in Ultra HD, then a 4K sub is $23.
Content: A continued massive content investment is what has helped propel Netflix back to #2 on the Mediaweek list. Netflix recently detailed how it has invested over $1 billion on new Australian and Australian-related Netflix films and shows. Australian programs from the $1b spend coming in 2024 include the screen adaptation of Trent Dalton’s Australian novel Boy Swallows Universe; kids animated series Eddie’s Lil’ Homies in partnership with NITV and the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF); outback drama Desert King; Heartbreak High returns for another term; and Tony Ayres Productions will adapt Jane Harper’s The Survivors into a series. Another quirky thriller set in Tasmania!
There is an endless stream of international content from all corners of the planet with programming to suit all tastes. The Crown’s final season has been topping Netflix’s own chart recently. Others we enjoyed this year included Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, All The Light We Cannot See, The Fall Of The House Of Usher, The Diplomat and Beef.
Upgrade/downgrade: A cheaper option is the Basic with ads level at $7. If you want no ads and HD and 4K content you will be paying $23 monthly which also allows for downloads.
3. Paramount+ (6)
After easing out of the Top 5 earlier this year, Paramount+ has stormed back up our chart with some brilliant content, leap-frogging serious competition.
The business model at Paramount ANZ is helping as the decision has been made to release just about all drama content first on Paramount+ before a possible second screening on Network 10.
There have been plenty of good choices made in the commissioning process for shows that screened this year. Both in Australian-made content and international productions.
A sport offering is included in the subscription which delivers football from the A-League, Liberty League, FA Cup plus Matildas and Socceroos matches.
Content: Paramount+ is really making a play to be the home of Australian drama, but there’s a lot of competition for that trophy. (See also the Stan entry.) Where Paramount+ also excels is internationally with content coming down the pipeline from the United States and the UK. Shows that deserve a big audience include The Last King of the Cross, Paper Dolls, One Night, NCIS: Sydney, North Shore, No Escape, Special Ops: Lioness, 1923 and many more.
Upgrade: Pay $90 annually and the monthly cost drops to $7.50.
NB: There is currently a 50% off the annual cost sale which runs until January 3, 2024.
4. Stan (5)
The Nine Entertainment-owned streaming platform has crept up the chart after a strong 2023 with some great Australian content and some clever international purchases. Stan remains the key place to go if you want premium Australian drama every month. There is a real race on for that boast though as we mentioned elsewhere in this article. Paramount+ has made a very credible pitch for that honour across the year, and the amount of money being invested in Australian productions by both Netflix and Amazon Prime is considerable.
Stan Sport is a specialist bolt-on extra (see below for details).
Content: In 2023 the Australian series included Black Snow, Bad Behaviour, C*A*U*G*H*T, Ten Pound Poms, Bump, Jones Family Christmas and Scrublands. Australian drama coming in 2024 includes Prosper. Memorable international programming this year included Poker Face, The Long Shadow, and the final season of Billions. Subscribers in 2024 will also get to see the end of Yellowstone.
Upgrade: If you want HD it will cost you $16, 4K Ultra HD is $21.
5. Prime Video (2)
There was a nasty shock for subscribers during 2023 when the price jumped from $7 to $10. That was enough to help push the platform down three places, but importantly remain in the Top 5.
Prime is also into the aggregation business which is going to be red hot in 2024. Users can also bolt on subs to Paramount+, Britbox, Hayu, Acorn TV, AMC+, DocPlay, MGM, Shudder and many more. Prime also added beIN Sports but it will cost an extra $15 a month. beIN split from Kayo during 2023.
Content: Prime has invested much in Australian content. In 2023 that included The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart, Class of ’07, Deadloch, and Hot Potato: The Story of the Wiggles. Future Australian content includes Five Blind Dates, The Office and The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
Prime Video international content has been hit and miss this year with oddities like 007: Road to a Million to more successful productions like the dramas Dead Ringers, Wilderness and Citadel. Let’s not forget either The Power with Toni Collette, the wonderful Daisy Jones and the Six, a second season of Clarkson’s Farm plus the fifth and final season of The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel.
Upgrade: There is just one plan as Prime keeps it simple. You can choose to pay annually at $79 which equates to a 33% discount. The Optus SubHub has been offering three months free of Prime to subscribers recently.
6. Disney+ (4)
Like many streaming services the business model was closely scrutinised in 2023.
The company has been clear to shareholders that it is “focused on achieving significant and sustain profitability”. That can only mean one thing for subscribers – higher costs. While the price has not increased since our last review, it remains one of the priciest options at entry level.
There has been an attempt to appeal to more customers via an ad-supported tier which has just started an international roll-out in Europe and Canada.
Content: If you love the worlds of Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and maybe even National Geographic, you’re probably on board already. Other franchises that attract crowds include The Simpsons or maybe even the six Home Alone movies.
The investment in Australian content is growing and two big releases in 2023 were The Artful Dodger and The Clearing. Popular this year was the six-episode doco series on The Matildas. Other quality TV across the year included A Murder at the End of the World, History of the World Part II, and new seasons of The Bear, Only Murders in the Building and Welcome to Wrexham.
Upgrade: $140 annually ($11.66 monthly). An ad-supported tier was recently launched in the US, Canada and some European markets.
7. AppleTV+ (7)
Apple has been clear this is not a volume play like Netflix, instead it’s going for quality over quantity. A recent price rise saw the cost climb from $10 monthly. That quality that Apple strives for was again rewarded in the Emmy nominations earlier in 2023 where it received no less than 54. Leading the pack was Ted Lasso with 21 followed by the Michael J Fox documentary Still with seven.
Content: Highlights this year included new seasons of Slow Horses, Ted Lasso, Schmigadoon!, and Morning Wars, and debut series Hijack, Lessons in Chemistry, Silo and The Crowded Room.
Upgrade: Although there is only one AppleTV+ option, there are bundling options with other Apple products. Prices range from $25 monthly with the addition of iCloud storage, Apple Music and Apple Arcade, through to different family plans for up to five people at either $32 and $50.
8. Britbox (8)
This really is a specialist service offering that is boosted by the content that Britbox partners BBC and ITV contribute. There’s not always a monthly must-watch, but increasingly there is. A new download feature recently arrived in the Britbox mobile app giving subscribers the flexibility to enjoy series anytime, anywhere.
Content: Britbox offered two of the dramas on my TV Gold list of the best shows of 2023 – Stonehouse early in the year and then Archie in December. A new Suranne Jones series is always something to get excited about and she stars in the drama Maryland which is exclusive to Britbox from January 25. Britbox is also the streaming home of All Creatures Great & Small and a seemingly endless list of British crime dramas.
Upgrade: Britbox is very active offering special subscription deals and one recent offer was 12 months for $60.
9. AMC+ (9)
A premium streaming bundle from AMC Networks that includes content from AMC, Acorn TV and Shudder. The acronym originally was a shortened version of American Movie Classics. The cable network didn’t go global until 2006 when it ventured into Canada. A year later it released its first drama series, Mad Men. Two years later Breaking Bad followed. Over the years a number of channels blossomed under the AMC parent brand, including Acorn TV and Shudder.
Content: You can still watch Mad Men on AMC+ (and other places) along with more contemporary drama like Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, Fear the Walking Dead, Dark Winds and Kevin Can F**k Himself. Acorn TV offerings include The Chelsea Detective, Candice Renoir, Baptiste and The Brokenwood Mysteries. Shudder horror originals include When Evil Lurks, Slasher Ripper, V/H/S/85 and Creepshow.
Upgrade: If you want the full-on experience of Acorn TV it’s available for $7 monthly while Shudder too can also be yours as a dedicated channel for $7 monthly.
10. YouTube Premium (10)
Just hanging in there on our list after a recent fee rise. There’s been a lot of confusion about the increased prices. One thing there is uniformity about is that this is an expensive service now. You’ve really got to want the ad-free experience to pay for Premium. Students can join for $10.50 monthly. One bonus of the Premium sub is the ability to keep watching while you view other windows or apps. Videos can continue playing in the background without interruptions. You will never run out of choice with 500+ hours of content uploaded every minute.
Content: It’s easy to get lost as you find new things to watch as you explore the depth of the service. Plenty of movies (free with ads or rentals) and live TV, especially news channels from around the world. Instructional videos of course for anything you need to know.
Upgrade: There are family plans, student plans and you can also downgrade to the free ad-supported plan.
Specialist streaming platforms and monthly fee
Best sport streaming
1. Kayo $25 The one channel sports fans need if they have any interest in cricket, NRL or AFL. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg with F1, basketball, netball, NFL, golf, ice hockey and much more.
2. Optus Sport $25 Or $7 if qualifying Optus customer. The place for football and home to the Premier League, Women’s Super League, LaLiga, EURO 2024 and more.
3. Stan Sport $15 but must have Stan subscription first. Home of rugby, European football via UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League & UEFA Europa Conference League and shares Grand Slam tennis rights with Nine.
Other specialist streaming options
Hayu $7 Reality TV on demand. Home of all Real Housewives franchise series, 20 seasons of The Kardashians (before they moved to Disney+) and much more.
Shudder $7 Horror central with some content included in AMC+.
Acorn $7 Brit TV with some of the content included with AMC+.
Flash $8 for 25 news channels, now including MSNBC, GB News and Ticker. No Talk TV, but you can stream that for free on YouTube.
Sky News Australia $5 Launching early in 2024 for these four channels – Sky News, Sky News Extra, Sky News Weather and Fox Sports News. You can also stream Sky News on Samsung TV+.
Best TV of 2023 TV Gold podcast episodes
Listen to the two episodes of the TV Gold podcast listing the best shows of 2023 as chosen by Mediaweek’s Andrew Mercado and James Manning with special guest, TV Tonight’s David Knox.