OzFlix, a brand new Australian streaming service that launched today, is running with the tagline “Every Aussie Movie. Ever.” While the 200+ launch titles don’t quite live up to this (yet), it marks an important step in making new and historic Australian content available to wider audiences.
Yet with a digital landscape that already has strong original content from Netflix, Stan, and FoxtelPlay – not to mention digital rental services like iTunes, Bigpond, and QuickFlix – where we spend our dollarydoos ultimately comes down to what we get in return.
What’s on it?
Of the initial titles, the landing page is divided into ‘Blockbusters,’ ‘New Stuff’, ‘Romantic Stuff’, ‘Funny Stuff’, ‘Indie Stuff’, ‘Serious Stuff’, ‘Scary Stuff’ and ‘The Pool Room – Oldies But Goodies’. There’s about 16 titles under Blockbusters, ranging from the Mad Max series, Red Dog, Wolf Creek, Animal Kingdom, Muriel’s Wedding and the international cult hit The Babadook.
It’s hard to imagine that you haven’t seen a number of these on free-to-air annually, but that’s where New Stuff comes in. However, with only 9 titles, the newest of these is from 2015 and stretches the definition of ‘new’ to 2007 (in the case of Black Water). The titles in that section could also be generously described as ‘B-movies’ with The Zombie Apocalypse, Plague and The 25th Reich dominating the fresh pile.
The meat of the collection can be found in the other sections, with the 1970s Australian New Wave sitting alongside Ozploitation, the post-wave “glitter cycle” and beyond. There’s real gold in the Indie Stuff section, including 52 Tuesdays and the terrific documentary Graphic Novels! Melbourne, while the 66 titles that make up Serious Stuff shows which direction filmmakers in Australia have historically leaned.
There’s a tiny selection of free original content too. Critics Rochelle Siemienowicz and Thomas Caldwell host @TheFlix, but that seems mostly promotional in nature. There’s an FAQ with John Jarratt, while Glen Dunks does a video film review of Mad Max.
Unlike Netflix or Stan, where there’s a fixed all-you-can-eat monthly access fee, OzFlix is very much a rental service. In other words, after the free sign-up, you pay on demand for each title. A large chunk of these are $3.79, although some titles (such as The Daughter) go up as high as $6.79. When you consider that the latter is almost the same price as a whole month of the ‘basic’ Netflix package, it seems a little steep. There’s also “bundles,” but at the moment these seem to be limited to OzFlix curated packages (5 films for $5.79) and there’s not many of them. If the idea is to showcase Australian film, this severely limits serendipity. Hopefully this will change in time. Rentals are for 14 days, but like iTunes, you have 48 hours to finish once you start watching.
How do I get it?
You can sign up for the service from OzFlix.TV, and connect with up to 5 devices at any time. Desktop, iOS/Android devices and Chromecast are all supported.
You can search and rent from the web versions, but for some reason you can do so directly from the iPhone app. Rentals will sync with your device once paid for, but it’s an extra level that makes things fiddly. As far as I could tell, the film doesn’t have a resume option or remember your place across devices like Netflix or Stan.
The bottom line
Ultimately, the strength of OzFlix will come down to having all Australian films in one place. It can’t be underestimated how significant a step that is in realising a connection between Australian audiences and the rich cultural history of film in this country. For the moment, OzFlix is a bit of a mixed bag with limited content and inconvenient pricing plans, but what it represents is potentially huge. At the very least, go sign up and check out the content for yourself.
- Australian content under one roof
- High quality streams
- Multiple platform options
- Promise of 2000 titles eventually
- Limited launch content
- No ‘all-you-can-eat’ option
- UI isn’t terrific on devices