Friday, 14 March 2014 06:41

Hey Presto - Foxtel launches underwhelming streaming service Featured


Foxtel has belatedly launched its Presto movie streaming service into an increasingly crowded market. Will it make any difference?

Foxtel has launched its Presto movie streaming service at a self-congratulatory slap up at Sydney’s Ivy nightspot. But it is a remarkably limited service.

The launch was delayed due to unexplained “technical difficulties”, which do not seem to have prevented many other services from launching in Australia before it. Apple TV has been streaming from iTunes for a few years, and local player Quickflix has been very active after a near death experience 18 months ago.

Optus has Fetch TV, many Australians are accessing US site Netflix, and illegal downloading a streaming is a large but unmeasured activity.

Yet Foxtel is promoting itself as a game changer. This, despite it being available on limited platforms (iOS, Windows PC and Apple Mac – no Internet TVs are on the launch list) and being late to the market. It seemingly bases this claim on two key factors – Foxtel’s marketing clout, and the fact that it will have access to a greater range of movies sooner than its competitors.

These are significant factors, but Presto’s limitations mean it will serve only to further legitimise and expand the market, rather than change it substantially. Certainly, ASX listed Quickflix seems to think so, brazenly issuing a statement welcoming Foxtel’s entry to the market. “Quickflix welcomes the news that Foxtel has finally launched Presto, confident that we remain a better quality and better value proposition for movie and TV lovers.”

The comments in the statement were attributed to Quickflix founder and CEO, Stephen Langsford. “We welcome competition. Foxtel’s entry into the market is acknowledgement by a major industry player that there is consumer demand for 'over the top' Internet delivered services at a lower price point than expensive traditional pay TV requiring a set top box and long-term contract.

“Foxtel’s entry will assist in building consumer awareness of the streaming category and that in turn will assist demand for all services in the category, including Quickflix.”

Presto will be priced at $19.99 per month, though an introductory offer prices it at $4.99 for the first month. Langsford says Quickflix offers a much better value proposition with its entry level cost of $14.99 per month.

“Our entry level package not only lets consumers stream their favourite TV shows and movies to a wide array of smart TVs, game consoles, desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones, but also a choice of over 60,000 of the latest TV shows and blockbuster movies via our online DVD and Blu-ray postal service.

“In comparison, Foxtel’s Presto service starts at $19.99 per month and is limited to PC ,Mac and iPads. Quickflix customers enjoy smooth streaming straight to their TV and can view multiple concurrent streams over many registered devices so the whole family can be entertained for only $14.99 a month. And we’re constantly expanding our range of latest release movies and hit TV series from major studios and networks, with more content debuting over the days and weeks ahead."

Quickflix recently announced its new content licensing deals with Disney, BBC and NBCUniversal, coinciding with increasing demand for its streaming service, which Langford says is growing at 20% per quarter. He says 60% of Quickflix’s 130,000 customers are streaming.

Presto's launch comes as Australia's appetite for access to streamed content, delivered over the internet to different devices, continues its massive growth” said Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein. “Presto will deliver the best in local and international movies including curated collections, recommendations and critics' reviews. Presto's regularly updating collection of movies will deliver most of the biggest box office releases of 2013 along with a huge collection of past favourites.

“Foxtel Movies offers the best from all the major studios and key independents including MGM, NBCUniversal, Paramount Pictures, Roadshow Films, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, Warner Bros Entertainment, Hopscotch Entertainment One, ICON, Studiocanal and Transmission Films.”

Presto seems remarkably limited in its capabilities, given Foxtel’s resources.

Read on to see the rkable list of things that Prest CAN'T do.

A glance at the Frequently Asked Questions on Presto’s website gives an astonishing glimpse into the services many limitations.

Presto is Internet delivered, so its website is all important. It is slick enough, but one of the most interesting aspects is the Frequently Asked Questions page, which reveals some extraordinary limitations. See

You have to ask yourself why Presto can’t do better than this. But the key question is not included – why can Presto be accessed only on PCs, Macs and iPads, and not on smart TVs? Quickflix, with a home grown distribution system and nothing like Foxtel’s resources, is available on dozens of devices.

Why don't you have any TV shows?

We currently don't have any TV shows available on Presto. But stay tuned, because this is definitely something that we're looking in to.

Do movies support surround sound?

Sorry, not at this time. However, we are always looking for new ways to offer a great experience and this is something we might consider in the future.

Can I use Airplay on Presto?

Sorry, No. Airplay is not yet available on Presto.

Why can't I get World Movies?

World Movies is not part of the Presto movie service at the moment. However, we are always looking for new ways to offer great content and this is something we might consider in the future.

How soon will a new release movie be available?

We have a great range of New Release movies available to rent on Presto. The great news is that they are available on or around the same day as DVD.

Can I choose between widescreen and full-screen?

No, Presto makes no distinction between Wide-Screen and Full-Screen. Presto is delivered in Standard Definition (SD) Video, the video player will open in a reduced view format and may be maximised to full screen.

Why do you advertise shows on the Foxtel Movies channels which I can't get on Presto?

If you are interested in something you see and it's not available within Presto (e.g. Showcase Channels or World Movies), give the Foxtel team a call on 131 999 and they can chat to you about upgrading to Foxtel.

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Graeme Philipson

Graeme Philipson is senior associate editor at iTWire. He is one of Australia’s longest serving and most experienced IT journalists. He is author of the only definitive history of the Australian IT industry, ‘A Vision Splendid: The History of Australian Computing.’

He has been in the high tech industry for more than 30 years, most of that time as a market researcher, analyst and journalist. He was founding editor of MIS magazine, and is a former editor of Computerworld Australia. He was a research director for Gartner Asia Pacific and research manager for the Yankee Group Australia. He was a long time weekly IT columnist in The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald, and is a recipient of the Kester Award for lifetime achievement in IT journalism.

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