MAY 22, 2024 / Disney+

How to get the most out of your streaming subscriptions

Streaming media subscriptions abound, whether your passion is the footy, reality TV, classic British drama or cutting-edge science fiction. There’s quite literally more TV than any one person can watch, which can seem overwhelming.

Between Netflix, Binge, Stan, Disney Plus, Kayo, Prime Video and many, many more, you’re spoilt for choice… and could be spending a fortune each month.   Here’s some ways to maximise the value of your streaming media subscriptions:

1. Don’t pay for services you’re not watching

This is my number one tip that I pass onto everyone, because it’s quite key. Streaming media subscriptions are relatively affordable, with most costing somewhere between $10-$20 per month. Compare that to a movie ticket, and they can be great value… as long as you’re watching enough on a regular basis.

What most services rely on is that people get a little lazy and don’t think about when those subscriptions are due to expire. By the time you think about it, another month has rolled over, you’ve spent your $10-$20, and you may as well leave it, maybe watch a little more in the next month… by which time you’ve forgotten again.

If you’re not regularly watching, cancel that subscription today! Most services will keep on rolling until your monthly date is due. If you’re still watching a lot of content, or suddenly feel the lack of access when it reminds you your subscription has expired, then it’s very easy to resubscribe. If you’re not, you’ve just saved money you could use for any other entertainment purpose you like.

2. Use profiles for everyone to get smarter show suggestions

The huge libraries of movies, shows and sport that most services offer are far too large to lay out to you all at once. You’d be paralysed with choice and presented with thousands of hours of content you probably don’t care about, making it hard to find the things you did want to watch.

This is where profiles come in, because every single service takes note of what you do watch, building up a profile of your passions in order to suggest other similar shows you might also want to watch.

If you only ever use the one profile, then those shows your kids pick form part of that profile. Maybe your other half loves horror movies and you’re more the rom-com type? Separate profiles means one of you will get their chainsaw fix, while the other gets all the roses and chocolates they can handle.

3. Don’t pay for quality you can’t see

Many subscription services offer higher quality, higher priced tiers for content in high definition or 4K. That’s great if you have a TV that can handle it, but it’s not the only part of the equation you need to think about.

You’ll only get that higher quality if your home broadband can reliably deliver it. Streaming services want you to keep watching, so if your broadband quality dips, they’ll dial down to high definition or standard definition as needed to keep the video going.

Most services with quality tiers will let you change tiers when your subscription month expires, and it’s always feasible to duck down in quality and see if you perceive a difference. If you don’t, why pay for HD or 4K if it’s all going to look the same thanks to your broadband?

4. Make use of offline

Offline (sometimes called download) playback lets you download shows and movies to your phone or tablet so that you can watch even when you don’t have Wi-Fi for the actual streaming part of streaming media.

Not every service offers it, and even those that do don’t offer everything to download for later playback. Still, it’s a great feature if you’re travelling, whether that’s a regular public transport work commute, or heading to a holiday destination.

Yes, you may be able to still stream over your phone’s mobile connection but having the files already in place means you never have to worry about mobile dropouts or variable streaming rates. Bear in mind that offline playback only works if you’re still an active subscriber, and some services do limit how many files you can have set up for playback this way.

5. You don’t have to spend anything on streaming video

If you were to subscribe to all the major streaming media providers in Australia, you would easily be on the hook for more than $100 per month. If your tastes are more specific for some of the niche entertainment or sports subscriptions, you could double that and more.

Or you could access a lot of streaming media for the grand price of… nothing.

There’s a limit to how far you can push the “free trials” that many of the big streaming services offer, but I’m not so much talking about that, because they’re largely designed to work with your forgetfulness as outlined above. Instead, it’s the many competing services that offer all kinds of streaming video content. All the free to air channels have variants on this, whether your tastes run to the ABC, SBS, Channel 9, 7 or 10 for a start, and that gets you a lot of varied content, including some live streaming options for broadcast programs.

Beyond that, services such as free movie platform Tubi offer a wide array of movies, although (to put it politely) quality can vary quite a lot when you’re getting it for free. If you’re a member of your local public library, check if they’re one of the many that also offer access to Kanopy, an online streaming service that offers up a quality array of Australian and World cinema and documentaries.

Or you could always head to the world’s most popular streaming site, the Google-owned YouTube. You can pay for a subscription that removes the ads from YouTube, but if you’re patient and happy to click a few Skip Ads buttons, they’re typically not that long for most watching sessions.

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Photo of Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman
A multi-award winning journalist, Alex has written about consumer technology for over 20 years. He has written and edited for virtually every Australian tech publication including Gizmodo, CNET, PC Magazine, Kotaku and more.