Binge Review: Foxtel’s New Streaming Service Is A Mixed Bag

Binge Review: Foxtel’s New Streaming Service Is A Mixed Bag
Image: Tegan Jones/Gizmodo Australia

Last week Foxtel launched its brand new streaming service, Binge. With over 800 movies as well as TV shows from Warner Bros., HBO, HBO Max, Sony, NBCU, FX and the BBC — Binge is positioning itself to be an almost one-stop-shop for all of your viewing needs. But is the viewing experience any good?

 

Binge

WHAT IS IT?

Foxtel's new streaming service

 

Binge User Experience

The first thing that you notice when loading up Binge is how slick it looks. Much like Netflix Foxtel has gone for a dark colour palette that is pleasing to look at and easy to navigate. You can set up multiple profiles for different users as well as a ‘binge list’ of content you watch to watch at some point. TV show seasons are cleanly laid out and you’re able to browse individual episodes without any problems.

On both mobile and desktop you can choose to browse movies and TV shows separately, with the platform breaking your choice down further into fluffy genre names like ‘Rule Britannia’ for UK telly and ‘The Funny Side of Life’ for comedy. It’s cute.

There is also an easy-to-use search bar which will bring up the item you’re looking for, if available, as well as related content.

Results for ‘The Walking Dead’. Image: Tegan Jones

Once you had loaded up something to watch the controls are simple and intuitive across mobile and PC. You can skip forward in 15 second increments or drag the slider if you want to move to a specific point in the episode or movie. There are also dedicated buttons for casting to your TV (which is important considering some smart TVs won’t have a dedicated Binge app for awhile) and skipping to the next episode.

You also have the ability to mess with the sound and picture quality as well as browse related videos.

While the the UI experience is generally quite good with Binge, there are a few functionality bugbears. Firstly, I would like to see a screen lock functionality on mobile for accidental bumps. But that being said, this isn’t industry norm yet — Netflix only introduced this over the last few months. So this is certainly a forgivable omission.

Somewhat more annoying is the change in orientation on mobile if you exit out of the content you’re watching. If you happen to be viewing in landscape mode it will switch back to vertical once you go back into the menu. It’s not a huge deal but something that would bother me if I was watching a lot on my phone.

Upon further use since it launched in May, I have also found that scrolling between TV show seasons and individual episodes isn’t particularly intuitive. It can take a few goes to realise which season you’re in and what episode you have selected. Further to that, sometimes you need to log back in, even on the same day, if you have left the platform unattended for awhile. It’s annoying.

The most significant issue, however, is the lack of parental controls. Considering that the plans offer multiple screen options, this seems like a big oversight that may turn some parents off the platform. Like Netflix and Stan there is definitely kid-focused content on Binge so it really should offer some control and functionality to work alongside that.


 

Binge Content

While Binge doesn’t really have much original content of its own, it has a enough of everything else to potentially tempt some people to swap over from other streaming services. It has a lot of super popular movies and shows that you can find on Netflix, Stan and Amazon as well as content that only found on Foxtel Now in Australia. Not to mention the fact that it has added hard or annoying-to-find stuff like The Kettering Incident and Sex & the City.

Some of Binge’s biggest shows include:

  • 30 Rock
  • Atlanta
  • Bad Education
  • Ballers
  • Band of Brothers
  • Barry
  • Batwoman
  • Big Little Lies
  • Boardwalk Empire
  • Castle Rock
  • Chernobyl
  • Doom Patrol
  • Forged In Fire
  • Game of Thrones
  • Girls
  • Homeland
  • Mrs America
  • Parks & Recreation
  • Planet Earth
  • Seinfeld
  • Sex & The City
  • Six Feet Under
  • The Americans
  • The Leftovers
  • The Newsroom
  • The Office (US)
  • The Sopranos
  • The Walking Dead
  • The War Of The Worlds
  • The Wire
  • True Blood
  • True Detective
  • Veep
  • Watchmen
  • Westworld
  • What We Do In The Shadows

We have also put together a list of the best shows (in our opinion) that you can watch.

Unfortunately some of the shows on the platform are missing some seasons. For instance, both Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow are missing their first seasons on Binge. Forged in Fire also only has the first three seasons available and Keeping up the with Kardashians only has season eighteen.

There’s probably some good reasons behind these omissions, such as licensing and it’s our understanding that Binge will set seasons live once they are available to the platform. Still, this makes things difficult for new viewers if they can’t watch the first season of a show, especially when Binge is making a point of being all about mainlining content.

The Best Shows You Can Watch On Binge, Foxtel’s New Streaming Service

Foxtel’s Binge streaming service launched Monday in Australia. Starting from $10 a month, you can now access the best shows that Foxtel has to offer at an affordable price. The content line-up including highlights from HBO, Syfy and The CW’s DC Universe alongside a bunch of award-winning movies. If you’re looking for your next favourite show, here’s what Binge has to offer.

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Binge Quality

The biggest downfall when it comes to Binge isn’t that it doesn’t really have anything unique. No, the main issue is its complete lack of HDR and 4K streaming options. The highest quality you can stream at is HD which is borderline unacceptable in 2020 — particularly when a good chunk of its catalogue is available on other platform in 4K.

The good news for Binge is that its lack of support for consoles and some smart TVs means it can get away with this for awhile. Anyone watching Binge content on a laptop, tablet or phone isn’t likely to notice or care too much.

But once you start watching on a large TV or monitor, the compression on shows that are supposed to be viewed at a higher quality is distracting. Especially in dark scenes.

As fellow reviewer Alex Choros pointed out on Twitter, The Long Night episode of Game of Thrones looks like straight garbage on Binge. To be fair, this was already a very dark episode that was not shot in 4K. But we also know that tech can help boost the viewing quality in cases like this. Binge and its hardcore compression does not.

The only other issue I have found with quality is drop outs. There have been a few times during the evening where I’ve found that some content has failed to load despite my internet connection being fine. This was mostly in the first few days after Binge launched, so I wonder if maybe site strain had something to do with it. Considering that Foxtel has had some issues with huge premiere events in the past, such as Game of Thrones, this is perhaps something worth keeping an eye on.

So if quality is at the top of your streaming checklist, Binge may not be the best choice for you right now. But if this isn’t something that bothers you or you’re watching on a more portable device anyway, this is unlikely to be a deal breaker.

 

 


 

Binge Availability And Inclusive Viewing

While Binge is available on a number of platforms such as PC browsers, iOS devices, Android, Telstra TV and Apple TV — you won’t find it on any consoles and some smart TVs are also not supported. While Samsung TV support is expected to be rolled out in the coming months, other brands such as LG and Hisense are simply on the road map for now.

While Chromecast and AirPlay is supported and will act as a possible solution, the lack of console support in particular feels like a glaring omission. Not everyone can afford a smart TV and casting to your TV from your device isn’t particularly convenient, especially if you want to use it at the same time. Similarly, while it’s super easy to watch on a laptop, not everyone wants to.

Choosing to leave consoles such as PS4 and Xbox out of the mix at launch is a dated decision that seems to be connected to the older customer base that Foxtel has relied on as its bread and butter. The same can be said for ignoring second screening culture and offering chromecast as a primary solution for this lack of console and smart TV support. Here’s to hoping that it will take different viewing habits and platforms into consideration over the next twelve months.

From the sounds of things it could start with the upcoming next gen consoles. At an online media briefing Foxtel revealed that it is currently in talks with Sony and that the company “will engage with Microsoft when the new product comes out.”

Another missing feature that you’ll find on competitor services such as Stan and Netflix is offline downloads. This is not something you can do on Binge, though we understand that it will be coming sometime in the future. While none of us are doing much travelling or commuting right now, it would be good to have this feature once the world opens up a bit again. It’s always nice to have the option to download some TV episodes for the train or a long flight in order to save on data.

What is perhaps the most significant complaint when it comes to user experience is the lack of subtitles or closed captions in any language. It is unclear why these weren’t available at launch by Foxtel has confirmed with Gizmodo Australia that closed captions are “in the pipeline and will be available very soon.”

This is good news as an oversight such as this excludes the hearing impaired, as well as people who prefer to utilise captions.


Binge Pricing

When it comes to pricing Binge is really close to both Netflix and Stan, with just a few dollars between some of the pricing tiers here and there. We have a full breakdown here.

With a baseline of $10 for one screen and $14 for two, Binge has a pretty good value proposition in market. For $18 you can bump that up to four screens, which is $1 more than Stan’s similar package but $2 less than Netflix. I can confirm that the simultaneous watching across four devices works perfectly.

Of course, while you are getting as many screens as competitor services for roughly the same price per month, you aren’t getting the same quality at the top. This is where the lack of HDR or 4K may become the tipping point for some people.

On the plus side, unlike Netflix and Disney+, Binge has a free two week trial. So you can definitely try before you buy.


Is Binge Worth It?

At the moment Binge is a bit of a mixed bag. Its biggest flaws relate to 4K and a lack of inclusivity when it comes to captions and availability on some devices — and these are things that won’t be a problem for everyone. Furthermore, some of them will be fixed in the future, such as subtitles, offline downloads and more robust device availability.

When it comes to content and general usability, it’s pretty good. It puts a lot of the biggest titles out there in one convenient place which is damn tempting. Lastly, Foxtel has finally removed itself from the shackles of its own pricing structure by offering reasonable price tiers that match competitors.

For now I would say that it’s worth giving Binge a go. If nothing else, the free two-week trial should be enough time for you to work out if you need another streaming service in your life. Or if this one could replace some of the others. Otherwise, you can always wait until some of the teething issues have been worked out. –


How To Get Binge In Australia

Binge is available on desktop devices, as well as iOS and Android. You can sign up for and watch Binge directly on its website as well as download it from Google Play and the App Store.

This post has been updated to include comment from Foxtel regarding closed captions.

Foxtel’s Streaming Service Binge: Everything You Need To Know

Foxtel’s new streaming service has launched after weeks of rumours and speculation. The upcoming addition, called Binge, will join a crowded market of streaming offerings competing for Australian dollars. Here’s everything you need to know: including the price and how you can watch it.

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