Quickflix movie streaming hits PCs, Macs

news DVD rental service Quickflix yesterday announced its new instant movie streaming service had gone live, with most most householders in Australia with entry level broadband speeds now being able to stream unlimited movies from many of Hollywood’s leading studios at any time, for a monthly fee.

WatchNow, Quickflix’s new movie streaming service for Mac and PC users has been assimilated into its website with subscribers able to select instant streaming or DVD by mail subscriptions, or both. The streaming package goes for $14.99 a month, with DVD rental costing extra — from $5.99 to $32.99, depending on how many DVDs you want to rent at a time, and whether you want access to Blu-ray discs or not. Quickflix is offering subscribers a free trial to the streaming service until December.

Chris Taylor, Quickflix chief executive officer, said the rollout of the streaming service to PC and Mac owners would make movie watching very affordable for most Australians. Quickflix is enlarging its range of streaming titles and has just tripled its library of DVD and Blu-ray discs, increasing its online DVD rental business. So far, there only appear to be a few hundred movies available to stream — and they’re mainly older films rather than new releases.

Quickflix has recently launched streaming to Sony’s range of connected Bravia TVs, Blu-ray players, home theatre systems and VAIO computer range and announced its upcoming availability on Sony’s PlayStation 3 later in 2011. In July the company had stated that it had received over $4.6 million in funding through private investors to help add the functionality needed to stream movies over the internet. Further popular devices will be added to Quickflix’s growing network.

Taylor spoke about the early promising indications of movie streaming usage on Sony’s Bravia line of TVs, introduced over a fortnight ago. “This next phase of our digital rollout will provide an addressable market of millions of potential viewers,” said Taylor. This could help fill a long-standing demand from Australian customers for legal streaming of online film and TV viewing choices, following US-based Netflix’s apparent lack of interest in launching its services in Australia.

Stephen Langsford, Quickflix founder and executive chairman, described the rollout to PC and Mac users as a significant milestone for the company, in line with its strategy of giving subscribers the choice of any movie anytime, at a reasonable price. “We are very encouraged with the momentum in the business and we are uniquely positioned in the market as more consumers turn to online for their entertainment,” Langsford said.

I fired up QuickFlix’s online streaming service yesterday for a quick trial, and what I saw was fairly predictable.

With only a very limited catalogue, and only of fairly mainstream and out of date films, after a month or so, you’ll struggle to find something worth watching on the service, unless Quickflix rapidly starts expanding its library. Quickflix’s list of titles so far appears very similar to the titles available through the FetchTV platform being used by telcos like Optus, iiNet and Internode locally: The movie range is OK, but there aren’t a stack of new releases, and most of the movies are ones you probably wouldn’t have rented this decade anyway.

Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Erin Brockovich, The Wedding Singer, the original Batman films, Mad Max 2, the early Harry Potter films and so on are rife throughout the Quickflix service. If you’re older than about 25 you’ve probably seen most of these films and you probably wouldn’t watch them again unless you were really keen.

In addition, the quality of Quickflix’s service is not fantastic. It’s standard definition, not high definition, and when you expand Quickflix’s viewer onto a large TV, blockiness is easily evident during scenes with a great deal of motion. In places, I would compared the quality to that of a VHS tape — it’s certainly not DVD quality, let alone Blu-ray quality, and it’s not even up to the standard of pirated films downloaded from the Internet in 2011 or HD YouTube.

Having said all this, the service is acceptable. You can, very easily, subscribe and start watching a number of top movies very easily. If you’re a movie buff, check out the catalogue here — you might find quite a lot to your taste. I didn’t … but then I’ve already seen most of it. You might just be getting stuck into your cinematic education. My advice: Ditch the 1980’s and go straight to the 1970’s. It’s a goldmine.

Right now, unfortunately, Quickflix’s streaming service is inferior to the market leader, Telstra’s T-Box platform, which has the biggest range and pretty good streaming quality. But the more troubling thing is that the limited range means even existing Quickflix subscribers (which I have been for some time) won’t find a stack here that they want. So far, the company’s streaming service is just a nice complement to its already stellar DVD rental service.

If Quickflix can bolster its range up to several thousand titles and increase the quality of its streaming, all of this will change, and I would predict that it would become incredibly popular at that point. But until then, it will remain of limited value.

Opinion/analysis by Renai LeMay. Image credit: Quickflix


    • I bet you it’s either highly compressed 720×480 or 720×576. Or if it’s like iView it might even be as low as 640×360. In additition it sounds like it’s highly compressed so it’s probably only 1-2mbps per second which further crushes resolution and detail. Oh and I also bet everything is in good old fashioned 2.0 PCM sound.

      This is one of the many reasons we need the NBN. So companies like Quickflix can start providing 720p content at the very least (or well compressed H.264 SD with 5.1 sound would even be a good start!). And of course they need to start offering some new films that people actually want to watch at a reasonable price.

      Until that time I’m going to enjoy the torrent of titles (see what I did there?) in 1080p/5.1 already available from other sources.

  1. $14.99 per month?

    A proxy service to the US costs $4.99 per month: http://unblock-us.com/
    Plus Netflix streaming costs $9 USD per month. Bigger range, SD quality. I’d look at an Australian site as an alternative if it had HD streaming.

    That said, Netflix streaming suffers from the same limited catalogue problems, just on a larger scale. It took me about 3 months to get to the point where I struggled to find anything worth watching. It has started getting better lately, though if you search for any given movie odds are it still won’t be available for streaming.

  2. I have been using quickflix streaming through Sony blu-ray player and the quality of stream is more than acceptable on my 50 inch samsung plasma. i haven’t noticed any blotchiness that you have reported. does it have naything to do with upscaling by the blu-ray player?

    i like the concept of streaming and have more movies in the last weeks than in last many months. its convinient to start watching it when you want it. i am giving them a little more time to add new titles and recent ones that too. otherwise, as you stated, its a bit useless to watch the same movies that i have seen over the last 10 odd years.

    also, telstra have promised a similar unlimited movie streaming service. i have T-Box and find their time limits to watch within 48 hours inconvinient. its like a video store, but don’t have to return the copy. is that video hire was unlimited time frame or longer timeframe (30 days or so), then i can use bigpond for new movies. it would be good to just do a premium service for unlimited streaming for new releases.

  3. I’m not very impressed by Quickflix current offerings but I’m willing to give them a few months to see what their library is like then. If they stick with similar movies they’ve currently got, then I won’t be signing up.

    I’d be happy to pay $15 a month to get 4 or 5 new release as this is what I’m wanting from an online service like this.

  4. Hi Renai,

    Firstly thanks for giving the Quickflix streaming a go – be assured that our range of content will expand. Our first step has been to go live with our low priced monthly subscription streaming to all you can eat movies —the range at 200 titles is relatively small but will grow as we publish more titles from the studios we have deals with and secure new Hollywood studios. The range of titles you can stream instantly with Quickflix complements the 50,000 latest release and catalogue movie and TV titles available in our online subscription DVD service.

    The other news is that we will also making latest release titles available under a streaming pay per view model, so we’re covering all bases.

    Regarding your comments on the actual streaming experience we asked our technical guys to look into that and make sense of your observations. Your experience has to do with us just launching and our content delivery network warming up—which it effectively does in the first week or two after launch, exponentially.

    Having just launched in the last day Quickflix is currently in the ‘warm up’ phase of our web-streaming portion of the Akamai CDN. This means that if fellow customers of your particular ISP haven’t watched a particular Quickflix title before, it may not yet have been copied to and ‘cached’ by your ISP’s local Akamai Edge server and uncached titles may exhibit buffering. This behaviour can also been seen by accessing less popular titles in YouTube or iView, which also exhibit buffering behaviour.

    To mitigate this, we chose Microsoft Smooth Streaming’s Adaptive Bitrate technology which dynamically adjusts the bitrate of a given end-customer’s stream (and hence quality of the picture) to prioritise the apparent frame-rate over picture quality. Even if you have super-fast internet, some adaptive bitrate behaviour (effectively lower quality picture) may be experienced while a title is being copied from the ‘Origin’ source out to your ISPs closest ‘Edge’ server.

    The good news is that each title only needs to be accessed once by a customer in a given ISP to be cached in the ‘Edge’ at which point subsequent customers with normal broadband connection speeds will experience smooth, highest-quality playback. As more and more customers access Quickflix movies, the CDN ‘warms up’ and streaming works extremely well.

    So sorry to hear your viewing wasn’t optimal last night—it would be great to hear what you think over the coming days and see if you notice a change.

    • Hey Stephen,

      Thanks for your responses! I and I’m sure the readers greatly appreciate Quickflix’s openness. I will respond more fully later on today as I’m out of the office at the moment.


    • Hi Stephen. Thanks for the info. Caching and adaptive bit-rate is great, and pretty much expected for a streaming service, but can you please let us know the exact resolution, frame rate and sound format your titles are delivered at? i.e. 720x576p25 @50hz with 2.0 AAC sound? From the sounds of it’s less than DVD resolution? And do you have plans to offer titles in full SD resolution and/or HD in the future?

      • Hi Simon,

        No problem…here are the current specs for PC/Mac

        Standard Definition
        480p and 16×9
        H.264 Main Profile
        MP4 package
        23.97 fps
        AAC 2.0

        We’re streaming HD to Sony Bravia today.

        I hope that helps…Stephen

        • Thanks again Stephen.

          So pretty much the equivalent of low bit-rate progressive NTSC with stereo audio then. I guess you have to stick to something even the most basic of ADSL connnections can stream. I do however like the fact that 24p means there is no 4% speed up of audio as seen with PAL/576p at 25 frames a second.

          However on my 50″ plasma 480p looks a little shite (even when processed by my Realta HQV video processor) so I’ll sign up when a decent range of 720p24 with DD 5.1 content is available :)

        • My opinion?

          I agree with Simon. I don’t watch anything in 480p these days. It’s just … old school. The Internet generation was at 720p a few years back, and now many things (notably, YouTube) are supporting 1080p, which is unsurprising, as this is what almost every TV sold in Australia these days supports.

          This, I would surmise, is why I didn’t think the Quickflix streaming solution was that crash-hot — because it’s only a step above old-school analogue TV.

          The fact that it’s AAC is encouraging, but as Simon says 5.1 is getting to be normal these days, and of course H.264 is pretty much standard also.

          I don’t want to belittle Quickflix (and it’s certainly true that the other providers out there in Australia are offering very similar specifications). However, Netflix in the US has had 720p available for a while and is now gradually moving to 1080p. It’s also had surround sound there for a while. What bandwidth does this require? 8Mbps, which many Australians, including myself, have available right now.

          In addition, as the NBN fibre rolls out (and bear in mind it will be hitting many hundreds of thousands of households by 2013) are people really going to be satisfied with 480p and AAC 2.0? No. Think big, Quickflix. The whole market is ripe for a decent solution right now. If it costs a lot, we’ll still pay for it, if it’s solid.

          • Spot on. I honestly wish the best of luck to QuickFlix as we need this kind of service in Australia, but the reality is we’ve already got a plethora of average SD sources to choose from. Even free to air TV (as crappy as it is with too many 576i channels crammed into limited spectrum) manages to give us a few 1080i channels to watch and Foxtel provides several good quality HD channels in 1080i now.

            Convenience and value from online rentals is one thing, but quality and fast availability of overseas content is what movie enthusiasts are really waiting for in Australia from what I can gather.

            Can I ask why QuickFlix is limiting itself to less than PAL DVD resolution for PC’s but offering HD straight away on select Sony TVs? Will this remain exclusive to Sony owners for long?

            Please don’t be a other “quantity over quality” provider. We already have enough of those. Even my mobile phone shoots footage in 720p at 30 frames a second, and high bit-rate 1080p Blu-Rays with lossless DTS HD 7.1 sound have been on the market for years now, so it’s only natural our eyes are used to 720p and 5.1 sound as the minimum standard :)

  5. The Quickflix page is advertising free streaming until December for existing cusomers (Link .. http://www.quickflix.com.au/Member/WatchNowUpgrade )

    However you have to go onto a streaming plan do it, right now I’m on a $19.99/month plan for 8 DVDs 2 at a time, the closest plan giving the “free” streaming is unlimited DVDs 2 at a time at $29.99/month.

    Don’t get me wrong I think the streaming is a great idea, but to advertise it as “free” to existing customers is false since you’re forced to go onto different more expensive plans to take advantage of the “free” service.

    As an existing customer I’d like to see Quickflix offer at least a handful of movies for streaming so that we can at least try the quality before handing over the $’s.

    • Actually cancel that, turns out I’m actually on unlimited DVDs per month, and the upgrade price list is completely different to the price list on the page listed above.

      Quickflix are trying to be confusing :(

  6. Sorry Quickflix but you still don’t get it. Many people like me do not want tied in services and subscriptions – subscriptions sux. We want reasonably priced al-a-cart PAYG services. Replace the corner store video shop with a library we can select from and PAGY, for a bit less than the corner store rates, and we’re in. But not till then.

  7. Hi Scott, we get it! Quickflix will introducing pay per view a la carte for latest releases early in the new year. You’ll have a choice of online DVD rental, subscription streaming or ppv streaming (or all 3).

  8. Its the ‘streaming’ bit i dont like because being in a rural area my DL rate is slow, so I cant watch even little SD YouTube without local buffering (i.e hitting the pause button and walking away for a minute). So streaming is annoying for me. So if the NBN solves world hunger as Conroy has promised, maybe i will be less anit-streaming, but as another poster mentioned, with a torrent of content out there for asynchronous DL, i dont think i will be swapping anytime soon.
    I dont get why these guys dont just do DL, i can make an ISO of a DVD and give it to my mates just as easily as i can give them any other file, so i dont get it.

  9. Hmm. im a big old movie fan, but i dont recall seeing ferris bueller in the list to stream. And im not sure i saw anything to stream that was made in the last 10 years. Yes i have this service, with my new bravia. Im not gonna write it off just yet though.

  10. Great idea, but VERY lacking in content. Having just ditched my over priced FOXTEL service, I was hoping to find a range of TV shows, like fringe , house, family guy, BBC stuff that is latest , and not years old like foxtel, but no TV shows exist, and the range of movies IS VERY OLD. I think I will cancel before my charges start in 2 weeks (2 week free trail right now) and revisit this service if they get enough content (content is king). The quality of the service looks good, the HD looks even better (NO 5.1 sound, but I imagine this is because of the low data rates).

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