The 3 best movie streaming services

New movie streamer Stuff Pix has arrived, but which service should you use?

In a move that’s either brave or crazy, a new player has entered New Zealand’s crowded movie streaming market dominated by Netflix, Sky TV, Apple and Google.
Stuff Pix launched last week, with an on-demand movie service offering 48-hour digital movie rentals priced from $1 to $7.95 in standard or high definition.

Like internet provider Stuff Fibre, Stuff Pix is a spin-off venture of the Stuff media business. It goes against the flow by ignoring TV series, which is where most of the creative acclaim is in the era of Game of Thrones and Stranger Things.

But a focus on movies would be welcome if Stuff Pix had the best movie library around. Unfortunately it doesn’t. It’s not even close: a smattering of recent releases but little depth overall.

About 70 mainly B-grade titles are available for streaming for $1 each, and there’s a section for Kiwi movies. The Stuff Pix user interface is fairly basic and there’s no smart TV app, limiting you to playback on your computer or mobile device.

Stuff Pix won’t shake up the streaming market, in which, thanks to competition for exclusive rights, no one provider has the ultimate movie line-up. It may sweeten the deal for its fibre customers, who will receive a free movie each month.

Which raises the question – if you are a movie buff, where do you go these days to get your film fix at home? Here are my three top picks.

Google Play Video

Google doesn’t trumpet its movie rental and download service here, but it is a decent platform and gives more flexibility in terms of playback options and smart TV support than Apple’s video service, which with Apple TV support is an obvious option for Apple devotees.

Google offers movie rentals from $6.99 ($7.99 for HD) and an option to buy a digital copy from $19.99 ($24.99 for HD). There are apps for Android and iOS devices, and Google’s Chromecast gadget does a good job of getting movies onto your TV screen. Some smart TVs also support the Google Play Video app.

Netflix

The US streaming giant doesn’t typically get the big-ticket Hollywood movies straight away, but it makes up for it with the growing slate of movies it produces itself and a large mid-list library.

As of January, 1563 movies were in the Netflix New Zealand library, with such niches as thrillers and sci-fi well served. It has the best user interface of all the streaming services, with tailored recommendations and viewer ratings, and is reasonably priced ($11.49-18.49 a month). There’s no option to rent individual movies. The Netflix app is widely available on smart TVs, and many movies can be downloaded for offline viewing.

Sky Movies

The pay TV operator everyone seems to love to hate has a strong movie presence, particularly if you like Hollywood blockbusters, which it often gets first.

There are seven movie channels on Sky: Premiere, Action, Greats, Extra, TCM, Disney and Classics. Rialto, a mix of art-house movies and documentaries, is sold separately for $11.18, and you don’t need to subscribe to Sky Movies to get it.

Sky Go, the streaming service accessible by Sky Movies subscribers, lists more than 600 movies, which can be watched on the Sky Go website on a computer, though not through the mobile app. Sky Box Office offers a small selection of 24-hour movie rentals to all Sky subscribers from $6.99.

The big hitch is that to get Sky Movies ($20.93), you have to bundle in the Sky Starter package, bringing your minimum bill to $45.84. If you opt for a My Sky recorder, you’ll pay at least $15 more. Getting the movies in high-definition via My Sky adds $9.99, so you are then looking at a $71 package. Sky’s separate Neon TV and movie service is overpriced at $20 a month and not worth it for the movies alone.

Also rans: Apple iTunes Video, Amazon Prime Video, Microsoft Films and TV.

This article was first published in the April 7, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.