10 All Access review: Needs more content

Channel 10's 10 All Access subscription service provides mostly classic content for now, but a proposed 2021 reboot could see it become a far more compelling streaming service.

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Channel 10's new streaming app is a lot better than we've seen out of most commercial players in Australia, but it's not exactly brimming with must-view content. The promise of a reboot and possible rebranding in early 2021 does give it an interesting potential future, however.

The good

  • Support for PC, Mac, Chromecast, Apple TV and mobile
  • Selected CBS shows on US air dates
  • Up to three simultaneous streams

The bad

  • Mostly classic content
  • Uncertain future for the service
  • No user profiles

10 All Access: Set-up

  • Android/iOS/Apple TV/web support, but missing platforms supported in the US
  • Easy subscription via browser, Apple or Android platforms
  • Single plan price
  • Support for up to three screens

For many years, Australia's commercial broadcasters lagged badly behind the streaming offerings of both SBS and ABC, with clunky, ad-ridden apps that offered a generally sub-par experience.

Channel 10's free offering 10 play definitely fell into that bracket, but upon its acquisition by US media giant CBS, it made steps towards meeting the expectations of Australian media streamers, launching 10 All Access in late 2018. The service launched promising thousands of hours of both classic content from the 10 and CBS archives, as well as fast-tracked CBS shows from the US and content made specifically for streaming audiences only.

Not that 10 All Access was 100% new code, mind you. The naming is deliberate, because it's effectively an Australian version of the existing CBS All Access service offered in the USA. It's priced at a flat $9.99 per month with no variance in pricing for higher-quality tiers or more connected streams at once. A single flat fee buys you access for a month with up to three simultaneous streams, and that's your lot.

Being built on the back of an existing content provider did give 10 All Access an advantage out of the gate in terms of device compatibility. 10 All Access supports streaming via Android, iOS, Apple TV, Chromecast and browser-based playback on PC or Mac. That's a fair mix of supported devices, although it is only a fraction of what's available in the US. As an example, CBS All Access exists as a Playstation 4 app if you're in the US, but there's no equivalent 10 All Access app. If you're a Roku user stateside, you can access CBS All Access, but not if you're using the Roku-based Telstra TV.

However, that's an access matter that will almost certainly change in 2021, with CBS announcing plans to launch CBS All Access as a global service, replacing 10 All Access when it does so.

The actual sign-up process is as simple as they come, requiring an email address, password and payment method. You can sign up via Apple or Android payment platforms, or via a credit card using a web browser. Your sign-in details will work across any supported platform.

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10 All Access: Compatibility and features

  • Limited original content
  • Much of the best CBS All Access content is missing
  • A lot of older content
  • No streaming quality choices

10 All Access promises a huge library of thousands of hours of content to view, and it's not technically incorrect for it to say so, although its approach to streaming content in Australia may leave you wanting in some areas.

The focus of 10 All Access can best be defined as "archival" in terms of the content it makes available, and that's in no way by accident. It still offers its own actually-free streaming service, 10 play, supported by inserted unskippable advertising. That's the service that you want if you've missed last night's episode of The Masked Singer Australia, because by and large current Channel 10 programming lives on 10 play.

However, if you wanted series one of The Masked Singer Australia, that's on 10 All Access, where you have to pay to watch it but can do so without advertising. The focus in terms of Australian content tends to be more towards more recent fare, but there are gaps.

In terms of Australian content, you can binge the The Bachelor, The Bachelor in Paradise or The Bachelorette, along with a selection of other Channel 10 shows. Here it's worth noting that not every episode is available to stream; as an example, The Bachelor only goes back to season four.

Or for a more stark contrast, Neighbours, where in theory 10 All Access could offer up over 8,000 episodes to binge on, excluding perhaps only that first Channel 7 season from 1985. However, that's not what you get, because the only episodes of Neighbours you get are from the most recent seasons; at the time of writing episodes from seasons 36–38 were available to view.

OK, maybe for Neighbours, watching 35 years of soap episodes would be overkill, or at the very least slow sofa suicide, but then streaming services are meant to be all about binge watching, no? If somebody wants to watch the classic Kylie Minogue episodes, why shouldn't they be able to?

It's not all Australian content, with a large focus on the shows that CBS owns the rights to. Again there's a stark contrast between what's available – and in some cases specifically produced – for CBS All Access in the USA, and what filters through to 10 All Access.

Venerable sci-fi series Star Trek is a good example. The new Star Trek Discovery series was shot specifically for CBS All Access, but the rights were sold internationally to Netflix, so that's where you'll find that show in Australia. Likewise, Star Trek: Picard is another series produced specifically for CBS All Access, but here in Australia it's found on Amazon Prime Video instead.

That's not to say that there isn't a lot of CBS programming on 10 All Access, because it's certainly rich with episodes and seasons of specific shows. Keen on the CSI franchise? There are dozens of seasons and hundreds of episodes available. There's also a smaller range of actual original content available only on 10 All Access, but it's not in the same realm as services such as Netflix, Stan or Amazon Prime video in that respect.

Again, CBS's stated plans to rebrand and relaunch its services internationally could change a lot of what's on offer with 10 All Access, if it even keeps that branding. Local rights deals may see it still limited – all indications are that the Star Trek deals with Netflix and Discovery will run for as long as those shows do – but it's already laying the groundwork, claiming back a range of Showtime programs from Stan, as well as keeping new Star Trek show, Star Trek: Lower Decks away from any rights deals that would deliver it to a potential future rival.

One oddity in the streaming space that you do get with a 10 All Access subscription is the ability to stream CBSN, CBS's US-centric news streaming service. It's the only part of the platform that live streams, with Channel 10 itself notably absent. Also, it's US news, with a particularly US-centric viewpoint that some Australian viewers – if you're not already familiar with the style – may find a little jarring and jingoistic.

So what about the actual streaming quality? Well, here you've got limited choices because whether you're using the app or streaming from a desktop, you get no controls over the quality of the stream you're getting. That does fit with the single-price model, where competitors often offer an HD or 4K option for more cash, but it does affect the quality of what you're looking at, especially for older shows.

Content shot for HD viewing is generally OK to watch, but older content tends to come through with some noticeable visual issues, although it's not always clear if that's a question of odd upscaling of originally SD (or worse) content or the way that 10 All Access delivers its streams.

I also hit issues getting some streams to even start over a Chromecast connection, although as with all things Chromecast, it's rather difficult to say if that's 10 All Access's fault, the Chromecast's fault or something in-between. I didn't hit the same issues watching directly on Android or via the Chrome browser on a MacBook Pro, where playback was rapid and, of course, ad-free.

10 All Access: Should you subscribe?

  • 10 All Access sits in limbo waiting for something better
  • Needs a serious content kick to become a must-subscribe option

The value in any streaming service lies in whether it has content you actually want to watch. Here it becomes a matter of personal taste. There's a lot of "classic" content on 10 All Access that has appeared across other streaming services in recent years, so a lot of it might not feel all that fresh to you or have that much appeal.

10 All Access does at least allow you to browse its entire content library by title (but not episode or season) without even signing in, so you can get a top-down view of what's on offer before you sign up.

It's not the strongest offering for $9.99 a month in terms of overall content to grab right now. That will change when it gets more content from Showtime and CBS generally in early 2021. With that we may just see a full rebranding to CBS All Access or it may just keep the 10 All Access name to make it more familiar to Australians.

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10 All Access: Pricing and availability

10 All Access costs $9.99 per month in Australia, with a free 30-day trial available.

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