In a bid to keep movie streaming dollars inside Australia and inside is coffers, Foxtel decided to take its vault of movie content and throw it at a new subscription service that you actually might want to buy. We've been testing Foxtel Presto, and here's the verdict so far.
With Presto, you’ll be able to access all the movies that Foxtel has license to, including the new releases it sticks onto its movie streaming channels, which is good news for people who like close-to-cinema-release titles.
The studios currently signed on for Foxtel’s movie service include 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.
You’ll be getting access to all seven movie channels, including Foxtel Movies Premiere, Foxtel Movies Comedy, Foxtel Movies Drama/ Romance, Foxtel Movies Thriller/ Crime, Foxtel Movies Action/ Adventure, Foxtel Movies Family, and Foxtel Movies Masterpiece. The aim going forward is to take the top 200 movies at the box office in recent months and throw them into the streaming service as soon as a studio allows it.
When it launches, Presto will be available on PC and Mac computers, as well as iOS devices Android tablet apps coming later. There's also the potential for other devices like consoles and smart TVs but Foxtel won't be drawn on timing for those.
We've been playing with the iPad client for the last few days, and it's much prettier than Netflix for starters. It actually looks like something designed for this century. High resolution images and beautiful fold animations between pages and panels make for a consistent and smooth experience on the iPad. The sidebar keeps track of which section you're in, and contextual menus float and fold out as required.
Foxtel has actually integrated Rotten Tomatoes ratings and feedback on films into the Presto app, which means that you get ratings from critics and punters in-stream and on the movie panel pages. Everything is a horizontally-scrolling carousel design, allowing you to swipe from left to right to see more content.
Movies sit in a big library which can be accessed in just a few clicks or via a smart search function, but Foxtel has content people based in Sydney to create cute little collections of films for you to enjoy. Right now there's a big compendium of action movies recommended, because everyone likes explosions.
Speaking of explosions, there's the price to consider for all this content. People will still blow up at the $19.99 per month price for Presto, despite the fact that it's cheaper than it was meant to be at launch. Foxtel originally wanted to charge $24.99 per month for the service, but revised it down to the sub-$20 price we already have.
As we've already done in this review, people will compare it to Netflix, which at the time of publication costs $8.86 per month, plus a few bucks extra for a service like Getflix to route you into the US by use of a VPN. Netflix costs let's say $10 per month in Australia for argument's sake. That makes Presto twice as expensive as Netflix, and in the eyes of cheapskates, that's sure to bite Foxtel when it comes to sign-ups.
Speaking of sign-ups, it's actually annoying to actually give your money to Foxtel for the Presto service. At the moment, registration is broken up into two different sections: the sign-up and the subscription sections. You have to complete one, then download the app, confirm your email address and then start up the billing process to give Foxtel $20 of your money. It's cumbersome and unnecessary, but it does have a reason behind it according to Foxtel.
The idea is that you can browse Presto without a subscription. Without actually forking over any cash, you can make watchlists, see what's on the Foxtel Movies channels and check out the films on offer inside Presto. Foxtel don't want to force you to fork over money as soon as you sign-up for this reason. That's a good idea, but not one that should make paying customers work harder to actually give you their money.
Foxtel adds that it might want to expand the package offering in future, which means that subscription is kept as a separate module to the sign-up section. What they'll be offering in future is beyond us, but hopefully they make it worth the extra effort.
The resolution of Presto when streaming leaves a bit to be desired. According to Foxtel, the resolution is fixed at (what we think is) around 480p when streaming on tablets, but the bit-rate is dynamic based on your internet speed.
That bit-rate can swing anywhere from 64kbps right up to 1200kbps on a good connection. It'd be nice if you could just tick a box indicating that you'd prefer a higher-resolution stream if you're a pixel-peeper.
As far as data use is concerned, a two-hour movie is around 1GB to 1.5GB in size, and there are no unmetered agreements in place for using Presto just yet. Foxtel says it wants to look into it, but it's not an immediate priority given that the sorts of people who are going to be aware of streaming products will probably have a 50-100GB internet plan anyway.
The other concern is that there isn't Android at launch, but Foxtel assures us that it's around three months away.
As far as sticking the streamed movies onto another screen, Foxtel says it will allow users to stick an HDMI plug into their laptop and TV to display it on a larger panel (mostly because they can't stop that sort of thing if they tried. The problem comes at a studio level when you start to get into a conversation about AirPlay and Miracast: studios don't really like letting you wirelessly beam it onto a larger screen, so that's something Foxtel will be working through in the coming months.
All in all, Foxtel Presto is a great first attempt at getting a movie streaming service for Aussies off the ground. We've badly needed something like Presto for the last two years, and it's great to see that Foxtel recognises the challenge that new media platforms present and decided to build something rather than bitch endlessly. We're big fans of Presto, and we can't wait to see what else Foxtel has planned for it.