View Finder: Stan is standing up and it’s 4K-ing great
Plus, Amazon's originals release schedule is a mess and Billions returns to Stan this week.
Last week I was lamenting the demise of Presto as the service officially shut its doors. This week the mourning is over, as Stan steps up to the plate and shows that it has what it takes to throw down with the US streaming giants.
To my mind, the news that Stan would be launching offline viewing next month and Ultra HD streaming in April is probably the biggest announcement the company has made since it launched on Australia Day in 2015. While launching locally produced TV shows and films is a huge step forward for the Australian industry, this week's announcement is a clear signal that the local streaming startup has what it takes to keep up with the seemingly bottomless wallets of the international competition.
While both Netflix and Amazon Prime have both offered 4K for a while, Netflix only got around to offering offline viewing back in early December. The fact that Stan is rolling out that functionality just three months later is a clear indication that this is a service committed to taking the fight to the big dogs.
Let's break it down. The three main pillars of a successful streaming service are content, device compatibility and quality.
One of the key advantages Netflix had at its Australian launch over Stan was its compatible device list. Stan has largely caught up in that regard over the past two years, with its rollout of apps for streaming devices like the Apple TV and Telstra TV, as well as game consoles like the Playstation 4.
On the content front, both Amazon and Netflix are focused on their original programming, which has left the door open for Stan to sign licensing deals with major players to offer exclusive access to premium shows through Stan. Stan's library is substantial, and it offers a good selection of premium new shows from major US networks as well as older shows to binge watch (hello, Jerry). Plus, it's expanding its own originals content, which is pretty great too. Amazon may have launched into Australia at a budget price, but its relatively small library makes it a hard sell compared to Netflix and Stan.
Which leaves quality as the other main pillar for Stan to compete. With the demise of Presto, Stan was starting to look a little light on the quality front, despite offering HD adaptive streaming. Sure, the vast majority of users will never watch a 4K stream, but when comparing features side-by-side, Stan was at an obvious disadvantage.
Then there's the quality of the mobile apps. Stan's app has always been fairly polished, but again its lack of offline viewing meant it lacked something its competition offered, at least up until this week's announcement.
So what does it all mean? Well, for a start it means that anyone not paying a paltry $10 a month for Stan's extensive streaming library is missing out. But it's also a pretty solid indication that Stan has a good chance of avoiding Presto's fate. If it can hold its own with Netflix, then it can go all the way.
What is going on with Amazon's release schedule?
My colleague Angus has already written at length about Amazon's disappointing decision to delay the global rollout of its original shows. This week, Amazon announced the Australian (and international) premiere dates for a number of its originals. Let's have a look:
|Program||Amazon Prime US Premiere date||International Prime Video Premiere date|
|Fleabag||16 September 2016||10 February 2017|
|Goliath||14 October 2016||17 February 2017|
|Transparent S3||23 September 2016||17 February 2017|
|Z: The beginning of everything||27 January 2017||24 February 2017|
The original announcement also mentioned a release date for Season 3 of Mozart in the Jungle, which was then rescinded.
With the exception of Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle (which are both already available on Stan) it's hard to understand why Amazon isn't launching these programs day and date with the US. When Netflix went global, one of the key benefits was the fact that they launched original programming around the world at the same time.
These little hurdles are genuinely holding back Prime Video from being a real competitor here in Australia, so let's hope things get up to speed a lot faster than they have been.
Get streaming this week
In addition to the list of Amazon originals set to land this week, as well as the continuation of Legion on Foxtel Now, Stan is celebrating the return of Billions tonight.
Of course, if you're looking for something to watch without sacrificing sleep for a never-ending binge session, we've compiled a list of the worst shows for binge watching, which is definitely worth checking out.
Each week, View Finder rounds up the latest news in streaming TV and movies for Australians.