Netflix Australia Review 2019 | Still the Industry Leader
From unwieldy beginnings as a mail-order disc rental service, Netflix has evolved into a modern media behemoth, changing not only Hollywood but the way we consume its content. It’s everywhere, invisible in its ubiquity, fading into the fabric of our lives as though it was always there.
Though not as expansive as American Netflix, with a library of nearly 3500 movies and just over 1300 TV shows, Netflix Australia has more content than any of us could (or should) consume in a lifetime. If you can fight off the evening-long bouts of overwhelmed indecision, you’ll find everything from blockbuster action films, quirky cooking shows, true crime documentaries, cute kids cartoons, and must-watch exclusive programs.
It does have weak spots – particularly in the way of recent release movies – but the UI, picture quality, functionality, and original programming are reason enough for Netflix Australia’s industry-leading status.
Put simply, no other locally available streaming service works as well as Netflix. When it launched in Australia in 2015, the Californian company invested heavily in on-shore servers, which has clearly paid off. Even on less than ideal internet connections, Netflix performs admirably, providing a stable stream with minimal buffering, adjusting resolution in real-time as net speeds fluctuate.
If you’re lucky enough to have a connection faster than 25mps – which, admittedly, is no guarantee in Australia – you’ll be able to stream 4K content at full resolution (with the right hardware and subscription plan, of course). You need The 4K picture quality is remarkable, particularly on shows that take full advantage of HDR, like the Netflix Original Marvel programs; you’ve never really seen a police car illuminate a rainy alleyway if you haven’t watched Daredevil on a UHD display.
If you’re not sure how fast your broadband is, you can find out with our NBN speed test tool.
This stands in stark contrast to Foxtel Now’s “three distinct shades of black” Game of Thrones broadcast earlier this year. If you’re a cinephile looking for the best possible image quality, Netflix’s only real competition is a shelf full of 4K Blu-ray discs.
Managing the Glut
The user interface is clean, elegant, and responsive on all platforms. Shows and movies are presented as large thumbnails, and divided into simple categories like “action”, “thriller” and “comedy”. Hover too long over a selection and a trailer will start playing, which isn’t always ideal, but it’s a minor annoyance at worst.
To keep the content glut manageable, only a fraction of the library is displayed on your home screen. Netflix caters this selection to your personal tastes, surfacing content it “thinks” you’ll like and burying stuff you’d likely ignore. The algorithm behind this is solid but tends to be a little unimaginative (“Because you watched Harry Potter 1 you might like… Harry Potter 2!”). It’s worthwhile keeping your eyes on a decent online release calendar, lest you miss something of interest. The upside to the heavy curation, though, is a manageable UI that doesn’t scroll horizontally until the end of time, *cough* Stan *cough*.
You can set up multiple profiles on a single account to preserve the usefulness of these recommendations, and for parents there’s a default “Kids” profile that walls off inappropriate content and surfaces eons of talking trains and singing Lego bricks and other wholesome nonsense.
Netflix’s Ace: Exclusive Original Content
The crown jewel and major point of difference with competing streaming services is Netflix Originals – a moniker for the exclusive programming produced by Netflix. It’s all big budget productions with recognisable-if-not-quite-A-listers-at-their-peak casts, and largely shot in gorgeous 4K. These productions have gone a long way to obliterating the stigma that previously surrounded straight-to-home video releases.
Though Netflix Original feature films have been hit and miss thus far (and far too often commit the egregious sin of resurrecting Adam Sandler), the TV series are often the best thing you can watch on any screen. Stranger Things, in particular, reached the same cultural saturation point usually reserved for the likes of Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.
Orange Is The New Black, The Crown, Black Mirror, Queer Eye, Making A Murderer, House of Cards, Ozark, BoJack Horseman and Daredevil all attracted similar levels of hype.
Admirably, Netflix also uses the Originals label to provide a platform to international productions: some of the best content under the moniker is produced outside of Hollywood with Netflix’s guidance (and money). Dark is an enthralling supernatural horror series produced in Germany, while Kingdom, a Korean production, is the best, most original take on the zombie apocalypse in years (think House of Flying Daggers crossed with The Walking Dead). Australian productions are even starting to appear, notably sci-fi thriller I Am Mother and controversial comedian Chris Lilley’s latest series, Lunatics.
Netflix Originals are also becoming increasingly more significant in the grand scheme of Hollywood. Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma picked up three Academy Awards from 10 nominations this year, including the coveted Best Director gong. And Martin Scorsese’s next feature film, The Irishman, a gangster flick reuniting Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel, will head straight to Netflix when it launches later this year – something that was unfathomable in the cinema-first climate of only a few years ago.
Unlike Foxtel’s “first run” rights for the bulk of its best series, Netflix owns all of these productions. Aside from a select few movies with limited cinema runs (ostensibly so they’re eligible for Academy Awards), you won’t find this content anywhere else.
What Else Is On?
Outside of Netflix Originals, content tends towards the slightly older variety, but there are still thousands of quality films and series to absorb. A quick perusal of my auto-generated “blockbuster movies” category yielded bangers like Jurassic Park, Step Brothers, The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road, Blade Runner, and Ghostbusters, alongside utter dirge like Transformers: The Last Knight, Geostorm, and You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. You win some, you lose some.
Netflix is decent at securing classic TV shows, too. If you feel like bingeing all of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Peep Show, Mad Men or Peaky Blinders, no problem, and the entirety of Neon Genesis Evangelion recently arrived on the platform to much fanfare.
Where the service falters is in the recent movies department. If you’re old enough to remember video stores, think of Netflix Australia as your local Video Ezy except you’re confined to the weeklies section. If you’ve missed the cinema run of a big-budget blockbuster, don’t count on it arriving on Netflix Australia anytime soon… or ever, in the case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars. Both of these titans are temporarily on competitor Stan before inevitably being walled off on Disney+ once it launches on our shores.
If you want to keep up with Hollywood’s latest, you’ll need to pair a Netflix subscription with cinema tickets or the odd Google Play rental. On the TV front, HBO is the most significant omission, but Netflix Originals goes a long way to making up for that.
How Much Does Netflix Cost?
Fortunately, Netflix is a bargain. There are three pricing options: $9.99 per month for standard definition streaming on a single screen, $13.99 for HD streaming and two screens simultaneously, or $17.99 for 4K streaming and up to four screens at once.
Unlike traditional pay TV services you’re charged monthly with no lock-in contract, so if you want to drop your subscription at any time you easily can.
And keep in mind that with the extra simultaneous screens on the pricier packages, there’s nothing to stop you sharing an account with friends or family living elsewhere, increasing the value proposition. If you have the connection speed and a 4K display, it’s hard not to recommend the top package.
How Can I Watch Netflix?
Basically, if you can read this review you can watch Netflix. It’s available on any web browser, Android and iOS, Apple TV, most smart TVs, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, even the Wii U. The only somewhat significant absence is the Nintendo Switch.
On portable devices, you can download programs to watch while offline, which is going to be a godsend when I take my insane, hyperactive toddler on a long-haul flight to Europe later in the year. Sweet, merciful Netflix.
Speaking of travelling, because Netflix is a global service, you can take your account with you as you roam the world and enjoy the different (often more-expansive) libraries of other territories. When you’re in America, you log into the bulging American Netflix library; when you’re in Japan, you’ll get
You’ve Probably Already Got Netflix though, Right?
The best evidence for the quality of Netflix Australia is just how ubiquitous it has become in a relatively short period of time. 11.2 million Australians have accounts. It’s practically the default TV platform in 2019. It’s so popular and normalised that we hardly notice it anymore.
It would be nice if blockbuster movies hit the service sooner, even as quickly as American Netflix (which just got Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, unlike Netflix Australia), but this doesn’t negate what it does well.
On a core level, Netflix Australia functions better than any of its competitors. It’s convenient, fast, and reliable. Under optimal conditions, the 4K HDR streams are a sight to behold, and considering the quantity and quality of Netflix Original programming, for the price, it’s an absolute steal.