How to stream all the best tv and movies at home

An entertainment revolution is quietly taking place in living rooms all across Australia. Where once we were limited to four TV channels, and forced to trudge to the DVD shop to rent a movie, now we can watch what we want, when we want, wherever we want to watch it. It’s called “streaming” and it’s really easy to do, even if you’re a technological novice.

Streaming is different from Pay TV such as Foxtel or Fetch TV in that it doesn’t require a special set-top box, and won’t tie you into an expensive long-term contract. Streaming can be done on a laptop, iPad, phone, or even a gaming console. All you have to do is log on to the streaming service’s website (see below) and sign up for a subscription.

If you prefer to watch on a large screen, you can link your laptop, phone or tablet to your television using a cable adaptor, or even splash out on one of the new Smart TVs, which come with built-in streaming compatibility. There are so many choices available, there really is something to suit everyone.

What you’ll need
You’ll ideally want broadband speeds of at least 2 megabits per second. You’ll also need to make sure that you have a generous, or preferably unlimited, download allowance. Check with your internet provider to see what your limit is, and shop around to see if you can find a better deal – try comparison website which lists the different packages and prices. Some telcos, including Telstra and Optus, offer movie streaming as options in their monthly packages.

Choosing your hardware

If you’re using a laptop, you can either watch movies on the computer screen, or use an HDMI cable to connect the computer to your TV. You can buy HDMI cables at places like Harvey Norman, Officeworks or JB Hi-Fi for around $20. Once you’ve plugged it in, you need to change the display settings on your computer. On PCs, go to Control Panel, then Display, then select Change Display Settings. On a Mac, go to System Preferences, then Display, then Arrangement. When you have followed these steps, you can drag the browser window across using the mouse. Thankfully it isn’t as complicated as it sounds. YouTube has a number of helpful videos to guide you through these steps. Click here to view.

Phone or tablet
Streaming on a tablet or phone allows you to watch your favourite shows anywhere – even on the bus. Most streaming providers have an app that can be downloaded from their websites to make viewing even easier. Phones and tablets can also be linked to a TV screen for viewing at home: for iPhones and iPads, you need a Composite AV Cable, available from Apple stores for $59. For Android phones and tablets, you’ll need an HDMI cable with the appropriate port for your phone (the same as your charger). You can get these from most electrical retailers. Again, if you’re using a phone, don’t forget to make sure you have a high data limit, so you don’t get slapped with hefty charges.

Games console
If you have an Xbox or Playstation, it should already be able to connect to the internet, and you can use it in the same way to access online streaming.

Apple tv
Mac owners might want to consider buying this little box, which gives you access to Apple’s library of movies, TV shows, live sports and news (RRP $109).

Google chromecast
This little “dongle” has a USB port that plugs directly into the HDMI port on your TV and allows you to connect your computer or Android phone to the screen wirelessly (RRP $49).

Smart tv
A new generation of televisions by Sony, Samsung, LG and others, come with internet browsing built in – although not all makes and models will be compatible with all streaming services available in Australia. If you are considering buying one, check the information on the streaming service’s website to make sure you choose a TV that’s compatible.

So now you’ve got the kit, the next step is to decide which streaming service you want to sign up for – we’ve listed them below. They all offer free trials (of up to 30 days) and there are no contracts to tie you in. Plus, they’re much cheaper than a Foxtel subscription, so why stop at one?

Launched in 2003 as a postal DVD-rental service, Quickflix began streaming movies in 2011. It has a vast selection of new releases and classic television series available to stream.
Quickflix Subscription: from $9.99 per month. 

The behemoth of the streaming world, this American service finally landed in to Australia in March 2015. Its TV shows include many popular “Netflix Original” series such as House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and its latest offering, Bloodline starring Aussie actor Ben Mendelsohn.
Netflix subscription: from $8.99 per month.

Foxtel is behind this venture, in partnership with Seven West Media. Both companies provide the content, so expect home-grown Australian series like Packed to the Rafters and films from Foxtel’s movie library. There are a few HBO shows, including Entourage and The Sopranos, but no Game of Thrones. This one is more expensive than its rivals.
Presto subscription: Movies only $9.99 per month; TV and movies $14.99 per month.

Jointly owned by Nine Entertainment and Fairfax, Stan was launched on Australia Day 2015. It has an extensive catalogue of shows, and is also commissioning original Australian drama for exclusive viewing on its service.
Stan subscription: $10 per month.

ABC iView
A chance to catch up on free-to-air TV. Programs are usually available to view for 30 days after broadcast. There’s no subscription and you don’t need to sign up. All you need is an internet browser to log on to the ABC’s website, click on iVew and start watching.
ABC iView: Free service.

SBS on demand
Like the ABC, this service has a library of recently broadcast programs and complete series available to view for a limited time, without subscription. It also has 600 movies, with an emphasis on international, art house and cult classics. Watch via an internet browser.
SBS on demand: Free service.

There are so many benefits to streaming that once you start you’ll wonder what took you so long. Forget fighting over the remote. Now everyone can watch their favourite shows, whenever suits them. What’s more, you can wave goodbye to annoying ad breaks and, even better, you won’t have to wait a week to watch the next episode of a show and find out what happens.

Love music? Then also read our round-up of how to steam music online

What are your favourite tv shows to watch or all time favourite movie? Join our conversation below…