The Streaming Wars
Netflix vs. Stan vs. Presto. We run our eye over Australia’s ‘Big 3’ streaming services
The exciting and genre-changing new world of streaming television has officially been available in Australia since early 2015, which when you think about it, isn’t that long at all. Yet in the world of digital media and mobile apps, 18 months can be an entire product lifecycle. 18 months, can see a modern tech company rise, fall, be superseded, be acquired by somebody else and get a new branding makeover. So how have the domestic streaming products held up in their short (but long) life thus far? Are we getting anything close to the service that international viewers get? Have our domestic products come close to competing with the superpower of Netflix?
For the purposes of this article, we’ll only be looking at Netflix, Stan and Presto. I realise that Foxtel Go / Play is a streaming service, but let’s get real… it’s just a lame extension of their cable service, and until they start allowing chromecast / Apple TV casting options from their mobile and tablet applications, and stop blocking certain shows on certain devices, they don’t count in this discussion. It’s also a genuine pity that Quickflix is not really around to be in the conversation either. Poor Quickflix, could have been Facebook, ended up Myspace instead.
So here are our opinions on the big three.
There isn’t much I can say about Netflix here that I, and every other person on the planet, hasn’t already said. It’s changed Television, it’s changed careers and it has totally reshaped viewing habits. They’ve done well. Let’s just leave it at that.
However, if you’ve ever had a ‘friend’ who once accidently signed up to a VPN, and then accidently got the US version of Netflix, you’ll know that not all Netflix are created equal. The Australian catalog is the mere younger cousin to the US offering, and I reckon it’s the type of thing I wish I never discovered. There are some things you’re just better off not knowing. This comparison, however, is not with the US version of itself, but with the other Australian services, so let’s look at how its stacks up there.
Sure, it’s not the US offering, but the content on Netflix is still plentiful in every regard.
What sets Netflix apart from the rest, is its original programming, which is currently producing some of the best television going around. House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Narcos, Making a Murderer, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Daredevil, Marco Polo… and that’s before I even mention the phenomenon of Stranger Things. Then, of course, there are the original stand-up comedy specials from the best in the business, such as Bill Burr, Jimmy Carr, Jim Jefferies, Dimitri Martin, Jen Kirkman, Tom Segura, Anthony Jesilnik, Aziz Ansari, Russell Peters and Chelsea Perretti. Combine this with the incredible back catalog of various comedy specials ranging from Louis Ck, Jim Gaffigan, Bill Hicks, Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison, Dave Attell and even some homegrown Aussie content such as Alex Williamson, Akmal, Carl Barron, Arj Barker (domestic comedy in-joke alert), Sammy J and Randy. Essentially, Netflix is the undisputed king of Stand-up comedy in Australia.
Content Rating: 9/10
Obscure Recommendation: It was one of the early trending binge shows, but if you’ve never watched Blue Mountain State before, then drink some beer, turn your brain off and laugh like a child.
Crafted by the finest silicon valley techs, tested under every circumstance, flawless in it’s delivery. The app works across all platforms, barely (if ever) crashes and is easy to use. This is how it’s done.
App Rating: 10/10
NETFLIX OVERALL RATING: 9/10
Stan joined the market in January of 2015 as a joint venture between Fairfax Media and Nine Entertainment. Despite its rather strong backing, Stan was starting a long way behind its competitors, and with a rather strange choice of name (it has grown on me) seemed to be pushing the manure in an upwards direction. Looks, however, can be deceiving, and Stan has grown into a very solid performing streaming service that has carved out its own little niche in the Australian market.
This is where Stan started on the back foot. It didn’t have existing rights deals in place such as Presto did with it’s Foxtel backing, or Netflix did with it’s everything, so it really had to start with its own homegrown offering and build from there. I had a look at Stan when it was first launched and the offering was pretty slim, but my recent venture back there was full of surprises. They have really ramped up their selection, and while they still can’t compete in the big blockbuster stakes – and the movie selections are poor – they did manage to smartly get hold of Community and Breaking Bad, and then the spin-off series Better Call Saul, as well as the recent addition of some Showtime hits Episodes and Roadies. They are improving in that regard.
Where they are a market leader, however, is in Australian content. Within Stan, you’ll find all the Underbelly series, all of Hamish and Andy’s television specials, all of Chris Lilley’s various antics, many of channel Nine’s big telemovie productions (Packer, Love Child) as well as come classics like Seachange, Wilfred, Frontline and Fat Pizza. You’ll also find plenty to watch for the kids, with a full range of cartoons, movies and educational shows from both locally and around the world. In fact, if you’re just looking for some content for the kids and some Australian shows, then Stan might even be your best choice.
Content Rating: 8/10
Obscure Recommendation: Stan is also slowly dipping its toes into the Original Content market. One of the best thus far is the homegrown comedy No Activity, which is a quirky and amusing little series of conversations that highlights the boredom of being a cop on a stakeout, or being a criminal waiting for stuff to happen. Great cast, really stripped back concept and lots of laughs to be found.
The first version of this App struggled, but the good people at Stan have smartly put a lot of resources into improving it, and now I must say it performs almost as well as the Netflix version, with many of the same useful features.
App Rating: 8/10
OVERALL STAN RATING 8/10
Presto was, in fact, the first of these three to the table in Australia, launching its Presto Movies service in 2014. The biggest hurdle Presto faces comes from its biggest weapon; this is Foxtel’s entry into the streaming market, and that is good when it comes to existing content. Where it is bad, is the fact that Foxtel has fought tooth and nail against the inevitable streaming revolution, and Presto seems like a half-assed attempt at being in the market, rather than becoming any sort of market leader. As they cling too hard onto their outdated, over-priced, old subscription television model, they are letting the streaming competition get way, way ahead of them. Presto is now part owned by Channel 7, which has seen an increase in Australian content on there in recent times.
This should be Presto’s strength, and in many ways it is, but I often find myself scrolling through the Presto offering and thinking to myself “Yeah it’s good, but I’ve already seen it.” They have access to the impressive HBO catalog of Entourage, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, The Wire… but no Game of Thrones. They have the back catalog of The Walking Dead… but not the new season of Fear The Walking Dead, despite it being on Foxtel’s FX channel. There are strange decisions like that littered all over the Presto offering, and one area that is really lacking is new content. My only reason for watching Presto at all at the moment is Mr Robot.
The Australian content is very strong and probably rivals Stan in this regard. You’ll find commercial TV favorites such as Packed To The Rafters, All Saints, City Homicide and Home and Away, plus Foxtel’s very successful Wentworth. There is certainly enough Australian content to keep the locals happy, but again, there is not all that much new content.
Content Rating: 8/10
Obscure Recommendation: I’m just going to say Mr. Robot again until people start listening.
Crafted by the cheapest Indian techs on Fiverr.com, tested under very few circumstances, terrible in its delivery. The app fails across all platforms, barely (if ever) runs without crashing and is weird to use. This app is terrible, and I’m not just saying that because it’s having serious Chromecast problems on Android at the moment, rendering it pretty much useless to me. Plus it has a limit on how many devices can be connected to it (which includes external streaming devices like Chromecast and Apple TV), and only allows you to change this once a month. When you add in the fact that Presto is by far the most expensive offering of the ‘big 3,’ this app and service is one very big fail at the moment.
App Rating 3/10
OVERALL PRESTO RATING 6/10
Netflix is still the clubhouse leader in the field, and will only get stronger as its original programming grows, but Stan offers a very competitive alternative. Presto could be good, if Foxtel ever decide to take it seriously, and if that day ever happens, we will find ourselves with a very competitive and content-rich streaming market here in Australia.