Stan Streaming Service: Australian Hands On

When StreamCo burst onto the scene in Australia promising a better way to stream for all, we thought it was a big promise with a stupid name. Now that we've heard all about its exclusives, its price and its new name — Stan — we're excited (and still not convinced that the name is quite right).

If you haven't met Stan yet, all you need to know is that it's a streaming video on demand (SVOD) service built by Aussies, for Aussies. The people at StreamCo noticed we were using a lot of Netflix via US-based VPN services, and supplementing that with a hell of a lot of pirated content. After a bit of research, the StreamCo people figured out that a cheap service with lots of content for Aussies would go down well.

Set to launch next year, Stan will cost around $10 per month and carry exclusive content from the likes of Sony Pictures (Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul), as well as content from MGM. More partners will be announced ahead of the launch, which is expected in the next few months.

Before we start telling you what it's like, there's a quick disclosure we need to mention. Gizmodo is published by Allure Media, and Fairfax (which forms 50 per cent of the StreamCo/Stan joint venture with Nine) owns Allure Media. Despite the relation, we still think Stan is a silly name.

After our chat at the launch of the Stan streaming service last month, big cheese Mike Sneesby invited us along to the bunker where Stan is being developed.

"You're the first people outside of StreamCo and Stan to see it in action," he said, with a nervous smile on his face.

The app opens, and immediately it looks familiar. Racks of horizontally scrolling content adorn the screen, with recommendations, curated content and recently watched material all easily accessible from the front door of the app.

There's going to be a carousel-like feature added later, we're told, that will show off hero content on the app. An editorial team is being hired to curate that, with new suggestions being added regularly.

Your last viewed item sits on the top left of the rack screen, and that will be synced across devices so you never lose your place. Like a global bookmark for your content.

A side menu flies out when selected to reveal a few different subsections of content, including TV, Movies and Kids. The Stan team wanted to make navigation as simple as possible so accessing new content would be a breeze.

There's also two other menus that help you have a better cross-device experience, too. Watch History allows you to see what you viewed recently and watch it again on any device. If you've ever been a bit drunk with friends messing about on Netflix and forgot what terrible B-movie you watched the next day, you know how useful an expanded viewing history would be. Plus, you can see if your partner has been screen-cheating on you (that is: watching ahead in a show you were meant to be watching together).

There's also a MyList section, which allows you to store content you're currently watching so you don't have to fish around for it every time. The Stan team assume you'll be watching a bunch of shows at once, and would enjoy a few bookmarks and progress bar-style trackers to help you keep up with where you are.

As far as the quality of the stream is concerned, Stan looks amazing. Wherever possible, the content acquired has been HD. Full 1080p HD, that is. Not fake 720p HD that looks blocky on your TV. Stan will also have 5.1 surround sound support.

We spoke with Stan's chief technology officer and the content team about the whole HD thing. Australia is a country with a big demand with a skinny pipe problem. A lot of us can't get the HD content we want because of rubbish internet.

We were told that, because Stan is built for the Austrlaian market, the delivery is optimised for a low bandwidth environment. Stan has partnered with Akamai to take advantage of their CDN and compression technologies, and it's working with Brightcove to ensure a hassle-free viewing experience once the content lands on your device. All the content is also sitting as close to the "edge" as possible, so it doesn't have far to travel to get to your device leading to lower latency.

Stan has even built a function into the app that sees the CDN go and pre-fetch content as you stream it so it buffers faster. The whole app is geared towards killing off the tyranny of "the last mile" (read: our shitty internet).

You'll only need a 2Mbps stream to get access to SD content on Stan, and 4Mbps and above for HD content, we're told.

Compare that to Netflix which recommends you have at least a 3Mbps connection for standard definition content, and a connection of 5Mbps for HD. 4K quality bumps you up to a recommended 25Mbps, but very few titles have that extreme definition right now, and even fewer connected devices can play it.

Stan will also launch with native AirPlay support (a first for an Aussie streaming service) as well as Chromecast support.

I should specify that we only got a very limited look at Stan during our meeting. We got to see the app itself, how it works on AirPlay (very well, actually), a few key features like watch lists and watch histories, as well as a look at the HD offerings. We were asked not to take photos of the app, and we were asked not to talk about some of the content we saw on the screen other than Breaking Bad.

From what we saw, we can tell you that it looks like a product that's about to live up to the promise of being Australia's first real streaming service, but there are still a lot of things in motion before launch.

The reason we can't show you a lot of what Stan is right now is two-fold: first, it's not really fair to form final judgments on a product while it's still in development, hence the "hands on" tag rather than a full review which would take longer. Second of all, Stan knows what it's up against in the market.

2015 is going to be a massive year for SVOD, with Netflix launching, Stan launching, Quickflix ramping up a SVOD service and Foxtel trying to leverage its content deals to keep up. If you like streaming, you're going to have a great year as a consumer. Because everything's so cutthroat right now, Sneesby and the Stan team don't want to give away their secret sauce, and that's totally fair. We just hope to hear more about it soon is all.

What I can tell you is that if Stan looks anything like it does now when it launches properly, it's going to be one of the most functional, easy to use and enjoyable streaming services Australia has seen yet. Bring it on.


Comments

    Do any of the streaming services provide a free, say, week's service so I can evaluate the service without having the hassle of setting up auto-debting and then having to cancel? I'd like to know for myself if one service is clearly better than another or if my wifi network can handle it or if the quality is there or even if their offerings are something I'd want.

      Stan will have a free trial at launch, and Netflix already does.

        But Netflix requires your credit card and will start billing if you don't cancel.
        Pretty sure that'll be the case for Stan too.

          For sure, people would just create new emails and sign up every week if they didn't ask for these details.

          You can actually kick off a free trial for Netflix without a credit card if you start the free trial with your iTunes account (via an AppleTV for instance). You can then just open iTunes and un-check the auto-renew... if you don't like it after one month, it just stops working. Easy,

    Man, if these guys are on iiiNet's Freezone... THEN GIDDYUP!!

      If Internode and/or iiNet unmeter Stan it's a day one purchase for me, no questions.

        People don't have unlimited?

          On TPG/Dodo this is only available on certain exchanges around Australia.

          Have you got a link to an ISP that offers unlimited everywhere?

          Plus lots of people are unlucky enough to live in a location where Telstra is the only ADSL available. It's too easy for us people living in capital city suburbia to judge others like that.

          Then there are the poor folk who don't have any form of fixed Internet. They only have 3G, soon to be LTE 700 but even then a 25Gb plan will set you back $150 per month. (excess data 10c/mb of course, unless you pony up $180 for the bigpond plan, but then you do get unmetered foxtel play - you could use a smart tv, pc or blu ray player for that)

          Given that pricing, it's almost certainly cheaper to go on a lower plan & get foxtel via satellite.

          Last edited 21/11/14 3:51 pm

            Yep Exetel offers unlimited ADSL via the Telstra network. I live in a rural area that only has Telstra services and I am paying $79.95/mo for unlimited ADSL2+

              But what about people out of ADSL range then? There's only one unlimited 4G ISP (Vivid Wireless), and besides the abysmal service range (only capital city CBDs IIRC), the speeds are absolutely trash.

    What'll ultimately decide things, is content. If there's all kinds of exclusivity BS going on that means you're unable to view the content you want without forking out for a multi-million dollar Pay TV subscription, then expect piracy to trundle on like before. Likewise, if I'm looking for recent TV shows (e.g. when Archer Season 6 comes out, I'll watch the living shit out of that!) and it's delayed by anything outside of a reasonable amount, piracy wins again.

    That, and obscure TV shows that are popular, but not THAT popular (I'm thinking Dragon Ball Z Kai, a good trip down memory lane for me). A "nice to have", but not a deal breaker for me.

      Streaming also doesn't overcome a lot of the issues that are solved by having a DRM free download for playback off-line any where, anytime and on any device. Again bittorrent and usenet win. Any solution needs to be technology agnostic. That is why iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc work for music.

        What I love the most about Google Music, is that I can literally hit "Add to library" and a few minutes later, the music is on my phone, ready to go when I'm on the train and there's no signal for miles.

        I guess that makes it less of a streaming service and more of a "rental" service, so there's that difference to keep in mind.

        But with that said, if Google or Stan or whatever were to allow offline viewing, I'd be all over that. Even if you could watch it twice before needing to go online for a "license check", that'd be great.

    Poor bastards - you go to all that work setting up a whole new streaming service, and then Netflix drop the "oh, yeah, we're coming in March" announcement. They must have known it was coming, but it's still got to hurt.

    I'll still check it out - even if it and Netflix are $15 each a month, 30 bucks is still far less than I pay for my TV watching - but there's got to be a fair few people who are with me in the "let's see what Netflix is offering" basket.

      Yeah, poor bastards, they've only had 5 years (or more) to get their sh!t together...

      Without competition, I doubt you'd get a fair service from any of them..!

        Lol, you're talking about capitalism? Few companies compete via pricing & features, it's mostly litigation & backdoor deals.

    I can see these streaming services degenerating into consumers paying more and more. Want to stream Game of Thrones? Need to use Foxtel. Want to stream Better Call Saul? Need to use Stan. Want to stream House of Cards? Need to use Netflix.

    As more and more of these services are made available and content restricted to different providers, it's going to hit the wallets of the consumers. And we'll be back to Square 1.

      The US has been in that same situation for years now.

      Doesn't make it right, but that's just the lay of the land.

    a few different subsections of content, including TV, Movies and Kids

    So Kids don't watch TV or Movies? Or there is a subsection to watch Kids?

      How about a subsection full of childrens shows that has nothing PG or higher? Probably the most likely.

    Whilst it's still in development: obviously there has to be DRM in this app, I understand but:

    Can we PLEASE have offline playback? ie downloading the content at home on wifi to play later on the bus, train or plane?

    That would also be a first for a aussie streaming service, despite some other countries having this built in to their FTA & pay TV streaming apps.

    It cannot be that hard, surely.

    Last edited 21/11/14 1:30 pm

    Looks like for android users Jellybean will be a minimum
    http://support.test.streamco.com.au/hc/en-us/articles/202457204-Is-my-mobile-compatible-with-Stan-

    And sorry, it looks like no offline streaming
    http://support.test.streamco.com.au/hc/en-us/articles/203100724-Can-I-watch-content-on-Stan-offline-

    It also looks like they'll have a six device limit
    http://support.test.streamco.com.au/hc/en-us/articles/202783140-How-many-devices-can-I-use-Stan-on-

    Last edited 21/11/14 6:28 pm

      Jelly Bean should be pretty much a requirement these days. Any device running Gingerbread, Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich probably won't be powerful enough to stream shows and movies decently

    One word.... "Moviebox"

    If you like streaming, you’re going to have a great year

    If you like paying for at least three services to get the shows you want, you're going to have a great year.

    I can watch Hulu or Netflix from the comfort of my console without changing HDMI inputs on my TV, or optical on my surround sound. Hope you plan to compete, because mouse based PC service or small screen tablets won't get my money.

    Any word if there's a public API planned like Netflix had?

    It's a shame there's the Silverlight requirement. That's a dead end framework and is a pain for cross platform support (Eg XBMC on a RaspberryPi).

      It looks like at least some stuff is set up for one http://api.test.streamco.com.au

      Every issue I've ever had with Netflix has been due to Silverlight. When everything is able to be, and is, pirated anyway, just fuck off the DRM completely for the sake of your paying customers!

    You can not have "better streaming services" without better broadband, there a couple of factors that have effecting your streaming experience.

    1. Low latency.
    2. High bandwidth.
    3. Prioritization.
    4. Quality.
    5. Large selection of titles.

    And personally, rather having all these different applications installed etc, we should have the ability to use Windows Media Center instead and set it up using XBMC.

    Above all, most people cannot use more than one service at a time because our internet sucks (more than 4 million have under 8Mbps broadband, and a further 6.2 million under 24Mbps), only 2 million or so have access greater than 24Mbps.

      That's what the NBN is for... oh wait.

        I have unlimited, 100Mbit nbn and i gotta say....it's fkn excellent.

        ...just sayin'

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