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Binge launches on May 25 in Australia

Binge reviewed: Foxtel without the cost

Quick review

Binge
The good
Great selection of content
The premium stuff from HBO included
Affordable price, especially for Foxtel
Available on many platforms including the web
The not-so-good
No kids TV shows
No closed captioning
No support for 4K
App can be buggy

Yet another streaming service? Yep, but from $10 per month, Binge finally delivers what people want from Foxtel: the content without as severe a cost.

The latest streaming media service on the block, Binge is a new all-you-can-watch ad-free streaming service, this time from Foxtel.

It’s also not Foxtel’s first service, as there have been a few. Foxtel itself is a cable service, which is like streaming, but also not, requiring the cable line and a box. In the time Foxtel has been around, we’ve seen Presto, Foxtel Now, and Foxtel Go, all of which are slightly different options for Foxtel services packaged into a streaming solution.

None seemed remarkable successful, though Foxtel’s latest appears to be a little more competitive.

What is Binge?

Binge is Foxtel’s latest thing, and is rather a lot like competitors Netflix and Stan in that it has a big content library you can add to a list for binging (get it?), plus some original content made for Foxtel. That last point is the one worth making, though, because while Netflix original content is made for and only run on Netflix, Binge’s original content is shared with Foxtel because it is Foxtel content.

Or to put it simply, Binge is Foxtel. Well, it’s Foxtel-lite. It’d a diet incarnation of Foxtel made to give you most of what people might subscribe to Foxtel for, but without the need for the box, kids programming, or sport.

Don’t need sport? Binge is probably the version of Foxtel you want, and that starts with the price.

While Foxtel typically costs a minimum of $49 per month for Foxtel Plus’ 50-odd channels of content, Binge starts at $10 per month for a standard definition stream, while $14 gets you a boost to something in higher definition.

What is Binge available on?

Binge launches on May 25 in Australia

The Binge app is available on pretty much every current operating system, with iPhone and iPad support from iOS 12 and onwards, Android phones and tablets from Android 7 “Nougat” onwards, Apple TV, Android TV, Telstra TV, Chromecast, and web browser compatibility extended to Google Chrome, Apple Safari, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge.

Basically, as long as you’re not using a Windows Phone, a button-based feature phone, or a video game console, you’ll likely have something that can use Binge. We suspect it’s only a matter of time until other smart TVs gain support, too, though at its launch, neither Tizen on Samsung’s TVs, webOS on LG’s TVs, or VIDAA on Hisense’s support Binge. This is more of a “watch this space” kind of a thing.

What can you find on Binge?

Binge start screen

With most of Binge’s library echoing that of Foxtel, you can more or less expect a similar offering between the two. That includes content from HBO and BBC, and even some of the things that are still airing.

We were delighted to find titles such as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Westworld, and with the former still airing, this appears to be updated with new episodes as the week pushes on.

However its library also includes old stuff and new stuff alike, such as Devs, Succession, Seinfeld, Parks and Recreation, 60 Days In, Big Little Lies, Watchmen, Breeders, Batwoman, 30 Rock, His Dark Materials, and others.

It’s not all there, though; we went searching for The 100, which does appear on Foxtel, but is missing in action on Binge. It appears some things Foxtel wants you to subscribe to still.

There are a bunch of movies, however, so even if you don’t necessarily find the entire Foxtel TV show library, you will find a lot of moves to flick between.

Is Binge a good service?

A Tarantino list on Binge
A Tarantino list on Binge for you to, well, binge.

Playing with Binge, we liked the service more than we expected, particularly because it provides some of Foxtel’s more premium selections at a price that doesn’t feel too cost prohibitive.

One of Foxtel’s downsides is the cost, and these days, paying for something that is largely unnecessary — specifically, paying over $49 per month for wanting one channel — seems like a bit of a stretch.

Binge, on the other hand, feels positively easy in comparison to Foxtel, and takes out not just the cost issues we have with Foxtel’s cable service, but the unnecessary hardware we didn’t want, either.

Ideally, you have all the hardware you need in the first place. You have a smart TV, a console, or a media player like an Apple TV, and you have a phone and/or computer. That’s plenty. That’s all you really need for decent viewing. We don’t need a special box to capture our shows, we you probably don’t either.

That leaves you with the content library, which while mostly back catalogue, is still quite impressive. It’s very much Foxtel in a more price friendly way, though some areas show more attention to some categories than others, such as how sci-fi and fantasy has a handful of shows, while crime and true crime has loads.

At least you know there’s a lot to search from, even if some of it can be found on other services, such as Stan, which shares some of the same content. Seinfeld and Frasier are examples of that, with both existing on Stan and Binge, though Binge’s use of Frasier is less pronounced, only including five seasons on Binge, while Stan offers the full 11. You may find the odd disconnect like that, which means Binge may not be the one-stop shop it aims to be.

Of course, it doesn’t need to be a one-stop shop at its price tag. These days, especially so, as we’re often subscribing to several services to fill our content needs.

What does Binge need?

In many respects, Binge is exactly what consumers and reviewers alike have been asking from Foxtel for years: a cost-effective and competitive approach to cable TV viewing. It’s something rivals such as Netflix and Stan have been all too happy to provide, and must have in some respect eaten away at Foxtel’s profit margins.

Binge is the solution, however, and it makes sense, delivering much of what makes Foxtel a strong content offering for consumers at a price they’re likely to be unfazed by.

But it still needs something. It still needs some things, actually.

One of those is support for 4K, not just because we’re seeing support for 4K from its competitors at Netflix, Stan, Disney, Apple TV+, and Amazon Prime Video — practically every paid streamer outside of Foxtel’s Binge. The other major reason is because many of the movies and some of the TV shows Binge offers have 4K releases, and yet you can only get a maximum of Full HD on Binge.

Ultra HD 4K TVs are not exactly new. These days, the minimum you get on a new TV over 40 inches 4K, and with 8K TVs coming out this year in abundance, you kind of expect 4K content, too. For Binge to deliver only a Full HD stream at a maximum seems a little crazy, especially when the highest price option only gets you an extra couple of screens, from two simultaneously being played to four. Not much of an upgrade.

Even then, the quality can be a little hit and miss. Download rates aren’t exactly high quality, and so while it’s not likely to make a different in all shows, bandwidth could be improved so that you’re getting a higher quality of Full HD rather than the sampling of bitrates we saw on Binge.

Streaming rates on Binge

We’d also like to see the kids material, because it’s just not here. While Foxtel offers programming for kids, the closest you get on Binge is family movies, but not a lot else. There’s no section for it, and you’d be better off subscribing to Disney+ and Binge if you wanted some semblance of kids programming.

Oh, and closed captioning would be nice, as that’s missing in action on Binge, too. It shouldn’t be, and it’s rather surprising given how important an addition it is to TV services, but it’s just not here, and we don’t know why.

Is Binge good value?

At a minimum of $10 per month, and making more sense at the $14 monthly fee for HD, Binge isn’t a dramatic difference between other media services, but clearly makes a wide chasm when you compare it to where it comes from: Foxtel.

Granted, you won’t get the aforementioned kids content, nor will you get sports, while a few other shows go walkabout in the translation, as well.

But in terms of competing with Foxtel’s $49 monthly minimum, Binge is downright affordable.

In terms of competing with the rest of the streaming world, Binge can feel like it under-delivers just a smidgen, namely because you miss out on higher definition formats, something Netflix and Disney+ both achieve.

Most people will likely see the value, especially those with Foxtel now. You will see it faster than anyone, while folks with Foxtel for sports will just keep grumbling and paying like they have no real choice.

Yay or nay?

Kids movies on Binge
The kids programming needs work. With only family movies, you’re missing out on Foxtel’s kids channels.

While the app can be a little buggy, we liked Binge more than we expected, and found it to be a surprising delivery from a company not known to be that surprising.

Most of the releases from Foxtel thus far in this space have been largely underwhelming, but Binge feels like most of the right response.

And maybe we’re just excited that for a nice change, it doesn’t feel like we’ll need to be gouged in order to get some of that HBO action in Australia, and that John Oliver is now actually affordable locally, among other great shows. It’s hard not to be excited by this, after Foxtel has waited so long in trying a properly new take on its cable TV model.

But a new take is precisely what this is, and it’s one that we suspect will resonate with customers looking for TV value.

Simply put, Binge is precisely what customers have been asking Foxtel for: a service that delivers content and value. It’s Foxtel without the cost, and it’s about time.

Binge launches on May 25 in Australia
Binge
The good
Great selection of content
The premium stuff from HBO included
Affordable price, especially for Foxtel
Available on many platforms including the web
The not-so-good
No kids TV shows
No closed captioning
No support for 4K
App can be buggy
4.2
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