Foxtel has confirmed a new streaming service, expected to be called Binge, will be released on 25 May but its inclusion in the crowded streaming market has many curious how it will be different. Here's what we know and whether experts think it will really work.
Everything we know about Binge so far
Foxtel has confirmed its upcoming streaming service will be launched on Monday 25 May after weeks of speculation. In the announcement, Foxtel confirmed it would be released alongside its existing streaming and cable services but would be marketed to attract a younger audience.
"We have been beta-testing the service for a few weeks and we are sure Australians will love everything about it. It brings an exciting new brand to younger streaming audiences with a very different and compelling product experience, and a distinctly curated mix of the best drama and movies from the world’s best entertainment brands," Foxtel's CEO Patrick Delany said in a press release.
"The launch will be another milestone in the Foxtel Group’s strategy to transform ourselves and bring our unparalleled catalogue of entertainment and sports to even more viewers in Australia. Our goal is to consolidate our position as Australia’s preeminent subscription television and streaming provider."
It also confirmed the name, pricing structure and available content would be released in the days leading up to its launch.
How Binge will set itself apart from Foxtel Now and the more popular streaming services available in the country is not yet officially known but Foxtel's recent HBO Max announcement might give us a clue about the type of content we'll see.
HBO Max, which is set to release in the United States on 27 May, is the US entertainment giant's new streaming platform set to come with a number of originals produced for the service in addition to legacy HBO content such as Game of Thrones and The Sopranos.
But the HBO Max announcement might not be a strong enough sell for those on existing streaming services, according to Professor Amanda Lotz, a media expert at Queensland University of Technology.
"As content, HBO Max isn't particularly 'special'. It isn't nearly as brand identifiable as Disney. Whether it leads new people to a product like Binge depends a lot on what else Binge includes — I suspect it will need to be more than just the HBO Max content," Professor Lotz said to Lifehacker Australia in an email.
The name itself, however, is said to provide another clue for what the service will deliver favouring full multi-season releases as opposed to weekly episode drops, similar to the Netflix model. Foxtel's announcement also indicates the service will be closer to Netflix and Stan in pricing.
"It is distinctly branded and aimed at part of the Australian market who either don't want to pay for our premium product or who have decided Foxtel is not for them," Delany said in the press release.
While many Australians likely weren't keen on another streaming service entering the country, HBO Max sounded like a worthwhile offering and for a moment, it looked like it might be coming to Australia. For good or bad, Foxtel has announced its landed the HBO Max deal so you're going to have to sign up if you want a piece of the HBO pie.
Does Australia really need a new streaming service?
Once Binge is released for Australians, it will be entering a very crowded market. Netflix remains the largest streaming service in the country with 12.2 million subscribers as of March 2020, according to Roy Morgan research. Foxtel held onto second place with 4.9 million with Stan, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime in tow on 3.7, 1.8 and 1.5 million subscribers, respectively.
But interestingly, Roy Morgan's research showed Foxtel was the only service to have dropped in subscriptions compared with the same time a year ago.
"Subscription television services continue to grow in Australia. Over the past year, an additional 893,000 people gained access to a streaming service in their household. All subscription television services have experienced an increase in viewers over the last year with the exception of Foxtel, which dropped by around 100,000 compared with a year ago," Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine said in a media statement.
Part of it could be attributed to the fact that Foxtel is at a higher price point than the other services. A Foxtel Now subscription starts from $25 per month while Netflix and Stan's both start from $10.
Dr Marc C-Scott, a senior lecturer in screen media at Victoria University, thinks the price point will be a make or break moment for Binge when it's finally announced.
"I think for them to launch Binge it has to be in that Stan, Netflix, Disney Plus price range," Dr C-Scott told Lifehacker Australia over the phone.
It's a crucial part of the equation, according to Professor Lotz as well, and one the HBO Max announcement doesn't entirely plug.
"Foxtel desperately needs a product with a better value proposition — that is an equation of price and service (content x experience). Right now, everything it offers is pretty expensive relative to what is in the market," Professor Lotz said.
When Binge does arrive, in whatever form it takes, it will mark another streaming option for Foxtel. Alongside Foxtel's cable service and Foxtel Now, plus the offshoot Foxtel Go, it offers Kayo as a streaming service for sports lovers. Binge will mark the third streaming offering, which could confuse customers even further.
"People who are using Foxtel Now are generally slightly different markets to those who are probably using their pay TV service and those who are subscribing to Kayo, Foxtel may not have necessarily got them across the line to do a full subscription with pay TV," Dr C-Scott said.
"The Binge service potentially could cater to a different market. But I think it might come to the point where they may start to reel back and start combining some of the services together."
But that potential platform would have to also stand against global competitors, like Netflix, Disney and Amazon, planning to hold onto their market share in the country.
As we've previously written about, the cost of signing up to multiple streaming services in Australia is adding up as more and more are introduced. Foxtel's HBO Max announcement prevented another one from joining the streaming ranks but Binge replaces it instead.
"The issue for Foxtel is, unlike Disney and Netflix, they really need the subscribers to take it up because they're only within the Australian market, where Australia is just a small market for Netflix and Disney," Dr C-Scott said.
The value in having global competitors is that we get easier access to the world's bigger titles but when they're all offering a piece of that, it makes it harder for all of them to exist concurrently.
"Services can co-exist as long they offer a distinct value proposition," Professor Lotz said. "There is probably room for something more Australian, perhaps those with more niche focus — though these by definition will have smaller scale — but the market is pretty crowded with general Hollywood exports."
Dr C-Scott is less hopeful of that prospect. He thinks something's going to give way eventually and he's hoping its not a service that's actually supporting the local industry.
"I don't think they all can coexist, I think there's going to be some casualties," Dr C-Scott said frankly.
"Hopefully, for the sake of Australian content, some of those that are supporting Australian content, film and television survive."
This article was originally published on 8 May but was updated on 18 May to include Foxtel's confirmation.
There are currently four main streaming services in Australia: Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now and Amazon Prime Video. There's also Apple TV+ and - in a few short days - Disney Plus. But that's not all. In addition to all of the above, there are smaller, more niche services like Hayu, 10 All Access and YouTube Premium - all of which contain original programming you can't watch anywhere else.