The best streaming sites for TV and movies in 2020
Best site overallRead our reviewHuge movie library...with a lot of duds
Best for sportsRead our reviewOver 50 sportsGreat apps
Best free serviceRead our reviewHighest quality moviesSlim TV selection
Best newcomerRead our reviewExciting originalsUX needs work
In 2020, Prime Video has come a long way since launch, while Kanopy will sort out your streaming needs for free and Disney Plus joins the fray with a one-stop streaming solution for fans.
Ever since the Australian government started cracking down on file-sharing websites and BitTorrent clients like Popcorn Time and Putlocker, streaming movies for free has become a tad trickier Down Under.
Look, it’s fair to say we’ve all used one of these sites in our most desperate moments. Everyone’s got their reasons why; maybe that movie you wanted to see before the internet spoiled it for you was delayed in Australia (like John Wick or Midsommar), or maybe one of Australia’s many streaming providers has been squatting on the distribution rights, or maybe, you just can’t afford another paid streaming service. All valid reasons. But it’s fair to say, we should be paying for our movies and TV shows where we can. It’s just that paying for it can prove difficult in our country, as we are girt by archaic distribution laws.
However, it’s worth weighing up the legitimate streaming sites available to Australians; the services that will be available to you, no matter how stringent our copyright laws become.
We’ve analysed the movie and TV show catalogues for Netflix, Stan, Prime Video, Foxtel, SBS On-Demand and Kanopy to determine the size and quality of each providers’ content library. Let’s take a look at the best streaming sites in Australia.
Best streaming site overall
When it comes to the sheer number of movies available, it seems you can’t go past Prime Video.
Prime Video had over 5,900 movies available to stream when we checked and an entry price of just $6.99 per month.
Unfortunately, it seems to be a matter of quantity over quality when it comes to Prime Video. Movies with a score of 80% or above on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB only make up around 0.8% of the entire movie collection. So there’s a lot of trash, or at the very least, ‘just okay’ movies to sort through.
The next two contenders are Netflix and Stan.
Now, Stan has a smaller pool of movies but it has more interesting content deals. those deals were a lot more interesting before Disney Plus launched in Australia and claimed its collection back. Still, MGM, Starz and Lionsgate all call Stan home now, giving the local provider access to ageless franchises such as the Bond collection and the Rocky series (including the recent Creed movies).
In general, Netflix’s original movies haven’t been of the same calibre as its TV shows and its third-party selection in Australia is a bit scattered. That said, Netflix scores points for allowing David Lynch to publish a 17-minute short film where the director interrogates a monkey, so props for that.
Overall, Prime Video was our pick because, if you can manage to filter through all the trash, it still has the highest number of movies available, and the highest concentration of new releases as well as some of the best original TV shows kicking around at the moment.
What Did Jack Do? – Netflix, 2020
Best for new movies
If you had to take a wild swing at which streaming site in Australia has the most recent movies, you would probably guess it’s the service that charges you a premium for its movie pack right? Like Foxtel Now does? Well, you’d be dead wrong.
Foxtel Now only offered 152 movies that were released since 2018 when we checked. Whereas Netflix had 612, Stan has 66 and Prime Video has 526. Now to be fair, Foxtel’s movies usually have a shorter shelf life than other streaming services, so you may get the latest movies one month, but they will be gone the next. And Netflix and Prime Video pump those numbers up by including huge swathes of international films.
Again, there’s the question of quality. Despite their large selection of new movies, Prime Video and Netflix had the lowest concentration of high-quality movies.
So there’s a lot of crap, basically.
Despite its low success rate, and this is a personal opinion, Prime Video still has more interesting new releases, such as the 2018 Suspiria remake, the 2019 Film Festival hit Her Smell starring Elizabeth Moss, and Donald Glover’s Guava Island.
So Prime Video is the winner in our books.
Undone – Amazon Prime Video, 2019
Best free movie streaming
The best free movie streaming site in Australia is, without a doubt, Kanopy. All you need to access Kanopy is a library membership at one of the many participating libraries. Sure, not everyone has a library card and some libraries charge a sign-up fee but most Australians can sign up for a library card for their State Library online. For example, anyone living in New South Wales is eligible for a NSW State Library card, all you have to do is fill out an application form online.
Once you’ve got a library (or student card) from an eligible institution, Kanopy is completely free.
That’s all well and good but why is Kanopy the best free movie streaming site in Australia? Kanopy has a library of over 4,500 movies (which is more than any competing paid streaming service). And while you might not get the latest Michael Bay blockbusters on there, you will find a wealth of quality flicks.
Kanopy is home to over 160 titles with a Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB rating of 80% or above. That’s a higher number of quality movies than any other streaming service in Australia.
Kanopy might pitch itself as an “educational resource” and there are loads of quality docos to stream but that doesn’t stop it from nabbing the rights more mainstream media. Right now, you can stream Hereditary, Eighth Grade, Lady Bird and Mid90s.
Best for streaming TV shows
Netflix might stream a boatload of movies but binge-able TV shows are its bread and butter. Whatever keeps you glued to your television for longer is a winner in Netflix’s books and what better way to do so than 10 to 15 1-hour episodes that are tailor-made to keep you watching.
If Reed Hastings had his way, we’d all be bolted down to living room floors wearing Depend adult diapers.
And that laser focus on original television programming seems to be paying off.
When we ran the numbers, Netflix Australia had 1,330 TV shows ready to stream and over 350 of those were released in 2018 and 2019. Not only was there more television than necessary on Netflix, but a huge portion of that programming was also quite recent.
Netflix Australia also had more high-rated (8 or above) TV shows than any other streaming service in Australia. That’s mostly thanks to the sheer quantity of TV shows on Netflix.
Speaking of quantity, Foxtel was second to Netflix with over 774 TV shows and over 130 that were released between 2018 and 2019. Thanks to its coveted first-run rights on HBO and FX TV shows, they also tend to be the shows out of the U.S. with the most buzz.
Foxtel has over 220 TV shows with an IMDB rating of 8 or above. Quality TV shows make up 29.72% of the entire library. That’s a higher concentration of quality TV shows than Netflix but not quite as high as Stan and SBS On-Demand.
Stan has over 120 TV shows with a score of 8 or above, making up 32.9% of the TV shows available. And SBS On-Demand has the highest concentration of quality telly, with 59 TV shows scoring 8 or above on IMDB, which is 34.5% of its TV library.
Best for streaming sports
There are plenty of options for streaming sports online and loads of free options too. However, the majority of services, like NFL Game Pass and Optus Sport, serve a particular faction of sports fans.
Optus Sport is ace for soccer fans, thanks to its exclusive coverage of the English Premier League and UEFA. And NFL Game Pass streams, well, NFL. Both are paid services. Optus Sport is free to Optus customers but comes with a $14.95 per month subscription fee if you don’t have any Optus services. The NFL Game Pass has different payment tiers for every subscription type (every match, just your team etc.).
Kayo Sports launched late 2018 with the goal of becoming the ”Netflix of sports” and fair play to it, it’s pretty much just that. If you want comprehensive sports coverage, it’s hard to pass on Kayo Sports. Kayo comes in two flavours: Basic and Premium. The Basic plan will allow you to stream on 2 screens at once, setting you back $25 per month. The Premium plan gives you three simultaneous streams for $35 per month.
Both plans have 14-day free trials if you’re keen to take it for a spin.
Kayo Sports is home to over 50 sports and while it might not get every match, it does have a few clever features to help you make the most of what’s available. First up, every sport is streamed in HD if you’re internet is fast enough (otherwise it just scales down to SD). Then there’s SplitView, which allows you to stream up to four videos at once on select devices.
Kayo Sports is only available in Australia at the moment but we’d be surprised if FOX wasn’t already planning a global launch. Or at the very least, New Zealand. Here’s hoping because it’s genuinely the best thing to happen to sports streaming in ages.
How we determined which providers were best
In our research, we tallied up the number of TV shows and movies on each service, then counted how many titles scored an IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes score of 80% or above to determine how many high-quality titles each service had. Next, we counted the number of titles released between 2018 and 2019, to determine which service had the most recent titles.
Those numbers are represented in the table below. It’s worth noting that titles are added and removed every single day so these numbers are bound to change regularly. Still, it’s an accurate snapshot of the state of each service in July 2019.
Got the speed to stream?
Even with legal, guilt-free streaming sites available to Australians, you will need a broadband connection up to snuff if you want to claw your way out of buffering Hell. Here are a few of the most popular NBN50 plans according to WhistleOut’s comparison engine.