Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Eye on Demand | May 27, 2017

Scroll to top

Top

Stan Review

Stan Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
5
User Interface
8
Content on Offer
7
Device Availability
4
Value for Money
7
6.2

Good Potential

Dave over in the UK now has some serious competition with their bizarre name for an on-demand service, now that Stan has gone live in Australia. Who’s Stan? Possibly the biggest threat to Netflix when it finally arrives on Australian shores. We take a look at this new on-demand service, and see how it stacks up to the global market leader.

There is no doubt at all that Stan is a bizarre name for an on-demand streaming service owned by StreamCo (a joint venture between Nine Entertainment Co. and Fairfax Media). But despite the odd choice of names, Stan represents the bold new face of Australian on-demand subscription services, created with direct competition against Netflix in mind.

With a similar user interface, many of the same features, comparable cost and a library that even includes some Netflix originals, it is really quite hard at times to spot the differences between the two – at least on the surface. Dig a little deeper though, and a few variances come to light.

While the greatly appreciated Profiles feature is also available in Stan (allowing users to separate their viewing habits from others in the same home), the Streamco service currently lacks any noticeable cross-platform support. This means anything you watch or view on one device will not be carried across to another. My experience shows this to be a problem at all levels, including Watchlists, previously viewed content and resume points – which is to say if you start watching a programme on your mobile device, you can’t just continue automatically where you left off on the big-screen TV when you get home.

That aside, Episode Management works very well – as long as you keep it to one single device. Episodes which have been watched are clearly marked, along with any unfinished content, and any previously watched series appear clearly on the Home screen.

Video quality is a really interesting topic regarding Stan. The service promises HD streams, and when I first began testing them, I was seeing flawless feeds averaging over 4000kbps. However, at the time of this publication, video playback became far less stable, dropping significantly often to unwatchable levels. This could of course be related to my geographic location, which is I dear say almost on the opposite side of the world from the summer sunshine of Australia – something to keep in mind for potential VPN customers – but any quick look at forums in Australia itself, and you will see plenty of other people experiencing the same dropouts. Perhaps Stan need to tweak things a little to ensure playback remains a bit more stable.

One thing which does differ enormously between Netflix and Stan is platform support. Netflix is available on almost any device you can throw at it. The chances are, you have in your possession some method to watch Netflix on your living room TV right now in your home. The same chances are that you don’t with Stan. At the time of launch, Stan is only available on a laptop or computer, or mobile devices such as iOS and a small range of Android phones (we couldn’t get it to install on our Samsung tablet). Thankfully, AirPlay and Chromecast are also supported, so there is a way to watch the content on the big-screen TV – as long as you have an Apple TV or Chromecast stick in hand.

Originally Stan only allowed 6 devices to be registered at any given time, but this limit has now been removed, with a rather generous three concurrent streams allowed per account.

 


  • As good as Stan may hopefully get via platform support, user interface innovations and video quality, it still all comes down to content. If Stan doesn’t provide enough good movies and television shows for their AU$10 per month, few will be interested in subscribing.

    And to be honest, this is finally where Stan does pretty well.

    Whilst the movie collection predominantly resides well within the 2nd pay-TV window – that is, most films arrive on the service after a period averaging 12months – there will still be both the odd new release film thrown in, as well as plenty of older classics and fillers. At the end of the day, there are still an enormous amount of films which will slowly change and hopefully grow.

    Three genres caught my eye when browsing Stan’s library. The Bond collection, which at the time of publication included every single Bond film made. World Movies; a genre which Australian television has been well serviced for many years thanks to SBS, and of course something which you could only expect from an Australian streaming service; Australian Cinema.

    The latter genre interested me the most, but with only 32 Australian titles highlighted, it wasn’t exactly extensive and to my great disappointment didn’t include The Roly Poly Man.

    More people will be signing up for their television library however, and here I had hoped to see an impressive Australian collection. After-all, Stan is partly owned by the Nine Network.

    Although there was a presence from the large Australian network, it was far from comprehensive. Of the four Australian dramas currently airing on Nine, three were present on Stan, including all of Gallipoli which at the time of publication only three episodes had been broadcasted on FTA linear television.

    But Stan didn’t include any of Nine’s other home-grown productions from the Reality or Lifestyle genres, or even the older box-sets that are currently up for grabs for free via their catch-up service 9Jumpin. Nor did Stan acquire imported shows that matched what it was airing on broadcast television.

    In fact, as far as Australian content goes, Stan has far more ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) series than Nine, although the ABC does produce more content anyway.

    To be honest, I was somewhat disappointed by this, as I would have liked to see Stan replicate what Hulu does to their OTA owners with FOX, NBC & ABC, especially since Nine’s own catch-up service is one of the poorest performers we have seen in the on-demand world.

    On the bright side, Stan are planning their own fully in-house originals, which at first should include a Wolf Creek television series spinoff and a political drama called Enemies of the State.

    Outside of Australian content, Stan do have a few strategic hooks to pull in customers, with titles at the time of publication including Better Call Saul, Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, Fargo, Luther, Lost Girl and plenty more.

    In my opinion, Stan should not lose track of their own Nine Network productions and local content in general. As the competition hots up, especially as Presto is partly owned by the Seven Network and rumours of Netflix Australia to partner with Network Ten, this could be a lucrative side to Stan’s operation, and something which sets it apart.

     

     

  • Stan’s website

    The best part of Stan’s website is the UI itself. It’s attractive, well laid out, and fresh looking.

    Besides the usual collection of genres and filters found in most other on-demand services, Stan does have something rather special – User Profiles. This is one of the highlight features of Netflix, and despite its incredible usefulness, it is remarkably rare with other on-demand services. It is therefore great to see this on Stan.

    Essentially, this is a way for families or shared homes to separate viewed content by users, so for example, the kids choice of programming doesn’t interfere with the adults. Since so many of the recommendations are based on previously watched content, the last thing we want is for junior’s passion for The Wiggles to influence Dad’s recommendations, or of course the other way around.

    I also liked the FFW/REW thumbnails on the scrubbing bar, which makes it remarkably fast and easy to navigate through a show to find a specific spot.

    On a negative side, I couldn’t see any working form of cross-platform support. By this I mean continuity across multiple devices. If an episode is watched on one platform, it should be registered as such on another. People should be able to start watching on their iPhone and continue where they left off on any other platform – but with Stan they can’t. Despite the obvious requirement of logging in, none of this information is carried across. Unfortunately, as far as their web platform goes, it gets worse. Video quality was quite simply, highly unstable.

    One moment, my Ethernet port was experiencing the dizzying heights of 4690kbps* or more of streaming glory rushing its way to my reference iMac, and then all of a sudden it would drop to an unbearable 300kbps* with horrific pixelation and a persistent judder that is often characteristic of Silverlight video technology. Although I can’t rule it out, nothing through my tests suggested this was anything to do with my own network or connection to Australia, but instability with Stan’s stream.

    Web bitrate

    Still on video quality, like the iOS setting, there is an element of personal control possible. However, instead of being able to manually set the bitrate between Auto, High, Medium and Low, the browser version only offers Auto (with an HD max) and Auto (with an SD max). Possibly due to the instability of the stream, I found it extremely difficult to see any differences between the two.

    Whilst talking about Stan via browsers, it’s worth mentioning Chrome browsers on OSX are not supported, but despite that, you can still natively cast to a Chromecast HDMI stick from them.

    Platform Pros:

    • Attractive UI.
    • Native Chomecast support.
    • User profiles.

    Platform Cons:

    • No cross-platform support.
    • Jumpy Silverlight.
    • Poor, unstable video quality.
    • Pointless video quality setting.

    (Accessing Stan from outside of Australia may require a good VPN service or Smart DNS service.

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTONHD BUTTONThumbnail BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Profiles BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Chromecast BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18153″]

     

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

  •  

    Best 2Stan’s iOS app is available free of charge from the Australian iTunes store, and at least at this early stage of the on-demand service, it is by far the best of the two reviewed platforms here.

    After firing up the app, the usual highlighted shows and movies scroll horizontally at the tip of the screen, with a Netflix-style selection of posters & genres scrolling downwards. In fact, outside of the colour scheme, it can be quite difficult telling this app apart from Netflix itself.

    The top/left hamburger brings up the main menu where you can drill down by TV, Movies, Kids, My List, the Watch History or switching profiles. But there is nowhere to actually create a new profile, so you’ll have to do that part on a computer.

    My List is really another name for a Watchlist or Favourites, and it comes in handy when you want to keep track of shows you want to watch. There is no direct link to the next episode, which would come in useful, but there is adequate episode management once you drill deep enough into a show. Watch History on the other hand keeps track of shows you actually watch, which again can be extremely useful.

    Video quality is once again interesting. I found Stan’s dynamic bitrate to be a little on the flustered side, choosing often the poorest of quality levels. But they also allow manual bitrate selection. At the highest level, I saw an average stream of 3120kbps*, but I have to admit I also experienced significant buffering at times. Keep in mind, I’m testing from pretty much the other side of the world from Stan, but although that could play a part in the problem, it doesn’t seem to be the only contributing factor. There have been many Australians equally complaining of buffering and other video quality issues. Perhaps Stan have teething problems with their content servers.

    At their lowest manual setting, I managed a “low quality” SD stream without too many playback problems that averaged 1240kbps* and for the most part looked ok. Flipping the quality switch to medium SD jumped the bitrate to a 2000kbps* average with noticeable improvements to visual quality. Sticking to auto, I managed the stream below which over the tested period averaged 1100kbps*.

    Stan iOS bitrate Auto 1100kbps

    Moving back to the positive side of things, not only does Stan offer AirPlay support, they also do it right by allowing full multitasking and direct access from the playback window. This means once AirPlay is set in motion, the iOS device can be switched off or used for other purposes.

    Chromecast is also supported which along with AirPlay makes Stan at least possible to get across to a proper television. The Chromecast button will appear anywhere on the app, whether in the main menu or on the playback screen when a Chromecast or Android TV is detected. The same video quality selector on the iPad screen will also control the video quality seen via Chromecast – as long as it is set before playback begins. I was able to stream at an HD level on at least one occasion which looked excellent on the reference TV, and averaged a 720p 3680kbps*.

    Chromecast

    One thing worth noting is that I still couldn’t see any form of cross-platform support on iOS devices either. When I watched a show on the iPad, it didn’t appear in my Watch History on the laptop. In fact, no information seemed to be shared between the two. This is a big difference from Netflix which has pretty much seamless cross-platform support.

    Platform Pros:

    • Well laid out app.
    • Video quality amongst the best I have tested (though issues were noticed).
    • Watch History and My List supported.
    • Resume supported.
    • AirPlay support with full multitasking.
    • Chromecast support.
    • User profiles.
    • Manual & Automatic video quality selector.

    Platform Cons:

    • No cross-platform support.
    • App sometimes unstable.
    • No offline downloads.
    • No way to filter content by year.
    • Can’t create profiles on iOS.
    • Video quality level can’t be changed during Chromecast stream.

    (Accessing Stan from outside of Australia may require a good VPN  or Smart DNS service.

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Profiles BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Chromecast BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18153″]

     

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

     

  • Unfortunately, at the time of publication, Stan didn’t support any of our reference Android devices. We plan to update this review as soon as possible. (Update! Now it does so stay tuned for an updated review soon!)

    Keep Calm Android

  • Chromecast on the other hand proved to be a surprise success. I write this with a raised eyebrow due to the many complaints I have read on various forums from around the world. In contradiction, I received some of the most solid and highest quality streams when chromecasting from my iOS device to the cheap HDMI dongle – although I have not tested extensively enough to be sure this will always be the case.

    At the moment, there are only (effectively) two ways to watch Stan on a proper television. Either via AirPlay (which requires an Apple TV and an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad) or via Chromecast, a cheap $35 dongle that plugs directly into the rear of a television’s HDMI port, and works with either an iOS and Android device, or the Chrome browser on a computer.

    Interestingly enough, we averaged significantly better quality when casting from an iPad rather than the browser, possibly due to the different ways they can be manually controlled. The browser cast can not be set to manual quality, and its dynamic bitrate selector dropped it down to a mediocre 820kbps* after a short, but enjoyable period where it held 2600kbps*. Via iOS, with the quality setting permanently set to high, we managed a very pleasant and stable 3480kbps*

    Chromecast Bitrate iOS

    Unfortunately, despite the ability of the Nexus Player to also act as a Chromecast device, Stan’s content wouldn’t play back on this platform in our tests. This could be related to the fact that the Nexus Player is not yet available in Australia. However, I would have thought that both devices used a set of Chromecast standards that would be the same across board – especially since Google is now white-labeling the technology with its Android TV brand.

    Chromecast always suffers from the risk of confusion. Once the stream begins playing back on a television, the device that controls it can be used for other purposes, switched off, or even removed from the network entirely. It is not unusual to forget exactly which device began playing the stream in the first place, especially in a busy household.

    For full details of chromecasting in general, check out our review here.

    (Accessing Stan from outside of Australia via Chromecast, may require a good VPN  or Smart DNS service.

    Platform Pros:

    • One of the cheapest ways to watch the content on the main TV.
    • Very good 720p streams when possible.
    • Controlling device can be used for other things during casting.

    Platform Cons:

    • No built-in UI.
    • Control can be confusing at times.
    • Would not cast to Nexus Player.

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTONHD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Profiles BUTTON Episode log BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Chromecast image

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18153″]

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

     

  • Stan were not the first Australian on-demand providers to arrive on the scene. Quickflix have been there for a while now, as were Presto who have reinvented themselves in time for Netflix’s impending arrival. But of the three locally run services, Stan is the closest in resemblance to Netflix itself.

    Content is king when it comes to choosing an on-demand service, and with Stan’s mix of locally produced content from the ABC and Nine, as well as plenty of high quality foreign imports, they make Stan either a strong competitor to Netflix and the other Australian on-demand services, or a great companion – after-all, there is nothing to say customers can’t combine on-demand services. Although there will be many overlapping shows available between them, perhaps there may also be enough exclusives to make multiple subscriptions worthwhile.

    That said, there are issues though. Video quality and buffering is causing misery amongst many (but not all) Australians, with clear instability seen from our end. Bugs also still exist and platform support is rudimentary at best (Netflix will shortly arrive officially on Australian shores with availability on almost every device imaginable).

    Stan’s initial arrival onto the Australian on-demand scene can be viewed upon as a relative success. Netflix didn’t start out as amazing as it is now from its first day, as it took a couple of years to fine-tune the service to resemble what we see today. Stan has launched with many of the lessons Netflix has learned over the years under its own belt from day-dot. But until all the bugs are ironed out, it still has a way to go.

    Pros:

    • Interesting library, including Australian content.
    • Up to HD quality streams if you’re network can reach that.
    • AirPlay support.
    • Chromecast support.
    • User Profiles.
    • No device limit.
    • 3 concurrent streams per account.

    Cons:

    • No cross-platform support.
    • Poor platform device support.
    • Unstable video quality.
    • No closed captioning.

    Movies BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTONHD BUTTONThumbnail BUTTONChromecast BUTTONAirPlay BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Profiles BUTTON Episode log BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Log:

    24.02.2015: Review published. Score 6.1 – Good Potential.

    19.03.2015: Stan removed device limit. Score increased to 6.2.

     

    * video quality results are averaged from multiple tests and may be affected by geographic location as well as available bandwidth.

     

    Found this review helpful? Why not like on Facebook and help others find it?