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Presto goes HD, with AirPlay, surround sound and mobile app redesign

After humble beginnings as an internet TV echo of Foxtel, Presto is now carving out a place as an SVOD service to be reckoned with, updating its mobile app, adding HD and rolling out AirPlay support.

Presto has redesigned its mobile app to focus on content.

Presto

Presto has announced its first major upgrade since the January launch of its combined TV and movie service, bringing HD streaming, AirPlay compatibility and a redesigned mobile app to its platform.

The streaming service says the improvements were driven by customer feedback, with the lack of HD topping the list of customer pain points, and include new features such as a manual 'play-next-episode' functionality to simplify the overall viewing experience without adding too much clutter to the app.

Presto has come a long way since launching its $20-a-month movie streaming service in March 2014. After joining forces with Seven West Media to form a joint venture under the Presto brand, the subscription video on demand service added TV programs to its mix this year with the launch of Presto Entertainment.

The service has also dropped prices in response to the increasing competition in the streaming space, seeing it morph from an internet TV provider of Foxtel's movie channels into a fully-fledged rival to SVOD competitors Netflix and Stan.

According to Presto's senior product manager of IP services, Richard Cole, the new look mobile app is about "simplifying everything" for users and fixing "what causes the most pain." And while the company may want to have the Presto name first and foremost on the platform, it's actually about making the content shine.

"Content is what people are paying for, not the platform," said Cole. "Forcing people to do a dance to find something doesn't do anyone any favours; the harder it is to find content, there's more loss of users. We want to get people to watch content faster."

Presto has certainly been vocal about its success in snagging rights to some of that top-tier content, including recently-signed NBCUniversal titles such as "30 Rock," "Parks and Recreation" and the hacking thriller "Mr. Robot."

With that in mind, Presto has pared back its iOS and Android apps to focus on TV and movie titles, rather than fiddly menus and settings (you'll still find those on the web platform, but the small screen is dedicated to viewing). There are genre and alphabetical searches, and existing customers will still be able to find their favourite Collections grouping titles into curated lists: Think 'Binge Session History Lesson' for historical dramas or 'Good Guys Gone Bad' for your fix of "The Sopranos."

The platform has also officially rolled out AirPlay compatibility, meaning Apple users will be able to start playing on their iPad or iPhone and then push the shows and movies to their Apple TV to watch on the big screen.

Also part of the new focus on content, Presto has gone hard on HD and support for 5.1 Surround Sound. After quietly launching a few titles in high definition in recent months, the service now has more than 2,500 hours streaming in 1080p with adaptive bit-rate to do away with buffering.

After launching with only standard definition content, Cole said it was "absolutely no surprise" that Presto users wanted to get more HD titles on the platform. But while 4K could come down the track, he added that the only real way to deliver that kind of streaming with Australia's current "variable" broadband is through progressive download. According to Cole, "4K is future deliverable, not an 'oh my goodness we have to do that right now'."

While the improved app, AirPlay support and expanded HD catalogue are big news for Presto, the company is also looking forward to greater device compatibility and an even better viewing experience.

Presto will be a launch partner for the Roku-based Telstra TV when it arrives in Australia, and the company has also promised that further device announcements are coming "soon." We can expect smart TVs and consoles as part of those announcements, but official details are still under wraps.

But Cole says, "If there is a screen in Australia, we have a target to be on that."

Until then, Cole points to Presto's backing from Foxtel and Seven saying that means "the best content" is a "given." It's now just a matter of working towards the best viewing experience.