A first look at Stan

alexYesterday streaming service Stan invited some members of the public to have a first look at the new platform. Mumbrella editor Alex Hayes looks at what it has to offer.

Of all the streaming services being talked about at the moment (and yes there are a lot – Presto, Netflix, Quickflix etc.) the one that’s most intrigued me is the joint offering from Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media – Stan.

So when I got the invite to have a preview of it which went out to the public yesterday, I leapt at it. However, my initial impressions were not good.

I signed up on my work Mac, only to be told Stan isn’t supported on Google Chrome on Macs, one of the bigger browsers. And when I tried to get it to load in Safari it loaded with glacial speed.  Not a promising start.

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However, on my mobile devices (iPhone and iPad) – it was a different story.

It’s fair to say the platform has taken its cue from Netflix – and why wouldn’t you? After all the US giant is the leader internationally in the space, so it’s got to be doing something right. And if Stan wants to lure Aussies using the service away from it, then making it recognisably similar will help.

The layout of the site seems fairly straightforward, and intuitive. When you log-in there’s a feature carousel at the top plugging some of the top content, with other shows and movies sorted into genres underneath. It starts with what you last watched (intuitively), and  the back catalogue of James Bond films which is some of its best exclusive content, scrolling down through new this week, premium drama and ‘groundbreaking comedy’ sections, down to pre school.

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I was surprised by the depth of the back catalogue, which features a lot of former Nine Network shows (as you’d expect) but also draws heavily on British and US shows like Sherlock, Ray Donovan, as well as Danish cop drama The Bridge. Shows like Fargo and its exclusive Amazon Prime content Mozart in the Jungle and Transparent are also well represented, as are a lot of classic comedies and a decent range of kids’ shows. It is worth noting for long-running or ongoing shows, often only the first few series are available on the service.

The recommendation engine also seems capable – throwing up a good range of viewing options similar to the show you’re browsing – useful with what’s a fairly extensive catalogue of shows. Having only had it for 24 hours it’s a little too early to say whether it does the personalisation thing as well as Netflix.stan recommendation

Kids are a massive driver for these services, but housing their content next to violent police dramas can be fraught with issues if you’re letting them have free-reign on what they watch with it.

Stan does offer a function to create restricted profiles, for either kids under 12 or by classification – but it doesn’t have the handy kids’ button on the home screen to get straight to that section that Netflix does, and requires a little more fiddly navigation from a main account through the pull-out menu.

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I’d been meaning to watch the last few episodes of Breaking Bad for a while, but haven’t managed to catch them on my Foxtel IQ box when they’ve been on repeat. So this was my chance.

I splashed out on a Google Chromecast device, hooked it up to the tele, and settled back to watch the first episode without any issues. One of the things I noticed was the fact it seems to have a responsive streaming function, again similar to Netflix, which takes into account your internet connection and streams in high definition, higher-standard definition or standard definition. A handy function with Australia’s fluctuating internet speeds.

However, when I came to try to cast the next episode to the TV it wouldn’t play ball – although I can’t say whether that’s a fault of Stan, Chromecast or a slightly crappy internet connection.

Whilst it would play on the iPad directly, the sound was not great – and when I tried to link my bluetooth speaker to it it assumed I was trying to aircast to another device, and froze the picture on the iPad screen. Something of a glitch for a service which is set designed to be used on mobile devices.

Despite the glitches my overall impression was good. It’s still early days and the first time Nine or Fairfax has entered the streaming arena, and Stan isn’t likely to be available to the public for another couple of weeks (although no launch date has yet been set) – so I expect there to be some refinements in the meantime.

Ultimately content will be the key factor in determining which of the services locally lives and dies (and if they can wrestle viewers from the US version of Netflix). With a lot of content here also appearing on rival services the a solid user experience is essential, and with a little more tweaking Stan will be a very solid consumer proposition.

Alex Hayes is editor of Mumbrella


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