Stan Review

Stan is Channel 9/Fairfax’s take on Australian streaming video services. Like the rest there’s plenty of hype, but what’s the reality like — and is it good value?
As I noted in my review of Foxtel’s Presto, 2015 will be the year where we see streaming video services really explode across the Australian marketplace in a legitimate sense, although it’s fair to note that there were plenty of niche players (such as anime and professional wrestling) that launched in Australia in 2014.
See also:
Anime in Australia: Legal streaming options
WWE VOD Network now live in Australia
Presto Review
Netflix Australia will suck. Here’s why.
Netflix is coming down under, but what kind of Netflix will we get?
Stan’s just recently launched with a 30-day free trial offer, which is pretty much par for the course for any given streaming service, because they’d like to hook you in, and free telly and movie watching is a fine way to do just that. In some ways, of course, this makes this a tough review to write, because as long as you’ve got sufficient bandwidth, you can check it out for yourself.
(Neccessary but dumb disclaimer: As noted, Stan’s owned by Channel 9/Fairfax. I have no dealings with Channel 9, but I’ve written for a number of Fairfax titles, as well as Gizmodo/Kotaku/Lifehacker Australia, all of which are owned by a company owned by Fairfax. Media in Australia is complex. Then again, I’ve also written for Foxtel magazine, the ABC, etc, etc, etc. Everything’s my own opinion, in other words.)
Stan’s initial content offering is quite solid across both movies and TV. It’s obviously a matter of personal taste, but the contrast with Presto couldn’t be more marked, especially when you consider that both services offer the same ABC-sourced content as each other. There’s clearly someone doing good wheeling and dealing at the ABC, or perhaps it’s cheap to acquire on a non-exclusive basis. Whether what Stan has appeals to you is, as always, a matter of personal preference.

Will Stan have what you want? That depends on precisely what you do want, but the initial offering is reasonably wide in scope.
Will Stan have what you want? That depends on precisely what you do want, but the initial offering is reasonably wide in scope.

Stan’s already flagged a few things it’ll have as “exclusives”, most notably Breaking Bad and its upcoming sequel Better Call Saul. They’re not to my taste, but that can vary and exclusives are going to be a fact of life for streaming service enthusiasts. That does point to the reality for most that a single streaming service probably won’t satisfy every televisual whim for everyone. Getting all the programs you want legitimately may involve multiple subscriptions.
It’s also worth noting that some programs that Stan does carry aren’t offered as complete seasons. Top Gear is present, presumably thanks to Channel 9’s deal with the BBC, but only seasons 18 to 20, as an example. Again, that’ll either appeal or appal depending on your TV watching tastes, but in an all-you-can-eat subscription buffet, more choices is always a better bet.
Equally, while Stan makes a large impression out of the gate in terms of its content offering, the real value will very much depend on content rotation, both in terms of new content offered and any content whose rights expire over time. Stan may be good for you for content right now, but if they’ve blown all their rights straight away, it could be a service you’ll only use for a while. Only time will tell on that score.
On the technical side, Stan supports both HD and SD content streaming where HD content is available to them. That’s changed via a toggle switch within the playing content itself, with a slight pause as it switches streams.
Stan has apps for Android and iOS, although at the time of writing I’ve only been able to test the iOS app; at launch there was an issue with the Android app being pulled from Google Play, and to date it hasn’t reappeared for any of my Android devices. Hopefully that’ll sort itself out relatively quickly.
I criticised Presto for the heavy level of content control, and here Stan is markedly more generous… sort of.
You’re allowed up to six registered devices, and streaming to the big screen is supported for both Airplay and Chromecast devices, covering the vast majority of iOS and — presumably, because again I haven’t tested — Android owners. In my own tests this worked quite well and with that nice comfortable level of ease that you want out of a solid TV veg session. As an added bonus, streaming out to an Apple TV doesn’t count as one of your six devices, although I presume that could change if Stan develops a dedicated Apple TV app.
That being said, there’s one really curious quirk in Stan’s device registration policy, and it’s the fact that once you hit your six device limit, you can only de-register a single device every month. It’s a weird and potentially quite limiting problem, because if you had multiple devices broken, lost or stolen within thirty days, your ability to access your Stan content could be quite limited.
Device limits are always annoying at the consumer end, but the one-device-change-per-month limit is just... weird.
Device limits are always annoying at the consumer end, but the one-device-change-per-month limit is just… weird.

Access to Stan also isn’t quite as good on the Mac side of the fence as the PC side. Specifically, it uses Microsoft Silverlight, which means that Google Chrome usage is completely unavailable, replaced with a message that states “Unfortunately Google Chrome on Mac no longer supports plug-ins, so you won’t be able to play videos on this browser. Please switch browser to Firefox or Safari.”
It may have been my own installation, but Firefox was no better, insisting repeatedly that I needed to enable Silverlight when it was both installed and enabled. Safari streaming did work, but if you’re not a big user of Apple’s homegrown browser, it’s a bit of a problem. Chrome on the PC, to the best of my knowledge works, although not in incognito mode.
Errors aren't an unknown quantity, but that's the reality for every streaming service. Stan is no better or worse in this respect so far.
Errors aren’t an unknown quantity, but that’s the reality for every streaming service. Stan is no better or worse in this respect so far.

The other major issue that Stan has at launch is that its search functionality is lousy. Really genuinely terrible, with all sorts of junk results, or failed searches returned. As an example, a search for “Richard Armitage”, returns series such as “Blackadder” (he’s not in it), but not the first two Hobbit films which he is in and Stan does carry. Stan has Sherlock, but can’t find Benedict Cumberbatch. There’s no way to search by rating, and Stan’s own TV categorisations only list “Drama”, “Comedy” and “Real Life” as genres. There’s an awful lot of room for improvement there.
Search for "Street Fighter", get offered "Elmo's Potty Time". Yes, Stan, that was exactly what I was after...
Search for “Street Fighter”, get offered “Elmo’s Potty Time”. Yes, Stan, that was exactly what I was after…

The hardline question remains, though, as to whether Stan is worth your $10 monthly subscription fee. There’s an obvious point of contention around value for any subscription service, because they’re “worth” exactly what you can get out of them, and some may view Stan’s offering in comparison to, say, a Netflix US account and VPN and decide they’re not to taste.
Others may find the local drama offerings and ease of access compelling. In the context of fully available services, with Netflix Australia still waiting in the wings, however, Stan’s easily the market leader compared to Presto’s limited content and even more sketchy streaming prowess. The trick will be in maintaining that lead.

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