What is Stan?
Stan, Australia’s homegrown subscription streaming service, launched in January 2015 six months ahead of looming landscape-shaker, Netflix. Its ever-growing library houses roughly 2,275 movies and nearly 600 TV shows, which can be consumed on an array of devices: most major smart TVs, PS3, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Apple TV, Fetch TV, Telstra TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Android and iOS phones and tablets, and web browsers on PC and Mac. Let’s take a look at how the local punter shapes up in our Stan review.
Who owns Stan?
Stan began as a partnership between two legacy media companies, Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media, both astutely smelling epoch-shifting change in the air.
In 2014, each invested $50 million into founding StreamCo, the start-up company that would manage the service. In 2018 Stan’s ownership structure became a whole lot simpler when Nine bought out Fairfax in its entirety.
Why is it called Stan?
Honestly, no idea.
How much does Stan cost?
Stan offers three price tiers, all of which offer decent value, with prices ranging between $10 and $19 per month
The cheapest allows for standard definition streaming and offline viewing on a single screen and costs $10. For $14 you can stream in high definition on three screens simultaneously, with three devices allowed to download content for offline viewing. Finally, for $19 you can stream on four screens in 4K, with offline downloads available for up to five devices.
|Price per month||$10||$14||$19|
|No. simultaneous streams||1||3||4|
|No. offline watching devices||1||3||5|
Stan free trial
Free trials among subscription streaming services are hard to find these days, with heavy-hitters Netflix and Disney Plus doing away with the whole ‘try-before-you-buy’ thing altogether.
Thankfully, Stan still offers a free trial – and a generous one at that. New Stan users can simply enter their email address and payment details to get 30 days of full access to Stan’s movie and TV library, at any plan tier you like. Yep, that includes the 4K Premium plan, which usually costs $19 per month.
If you decide not to hang around after that month, you can cancel at any time.
Looking for more free trials?
Stan app: UI and functionality
The Stan app’s attractive dashboard hides a number of niggling limitations. Like Netflix, content is displayed as large thumbnails that are intuitive and easy to parse; unlike Netflix, content is not catered to your personal tastes via a magical algorithm DJ. As such, you’ll see a lot of stuff you have zero interest in surfaced to your homepage (aside from the occasional “Because you watched X” suggestion section).
This, coupled with the fact that Stan’s horizontal genre rows don’t loop back around on themselves carousel-style, instead reaching an endpoint, means it can take an age to return to something you initially skipped over.
It also needs to be said that I’ve encountered far more bugs on the Stan app than I have with Netflix, from relatively minor stuff like losing my place in a paused show or across devices, to bigger issues like hard crashes requiring reboots. These don’t occur often enough to caution people away from getting Stan, but be warned you’ll need to deal with the odd irritation.
What movies and shows are on Stan?
Stan’s library is undoubtedly impressive. Although it produces few original series and movies in-house, Stan invests heavily in exclusive Australian streaming rights, with licensed prestige television forming a key part of the catalogue.
The 2019 adaptation of Joseph Heller’s hilarious novel Catch-22, starring George Clooney, is excellent, and you can’t watch it anywhere else. Critically acclaimed Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul is a Stan exclusive, as is AMC’s take on Garth Ennis’ cult-favourite graphic novel Preacher. City on a Hill starring Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge, David Lynch’s 2017 return to Twin Peaks, and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams all call Stan home, as do Billions, Sherlock, and Ash Vs Evil Dead. It’s a quality line-up of big-budget serials.
Stan also performs admirably in the classic TV department. If you want to binge every episode of Seinfeld, you can (what’s the deal with that, Jerry?!). Likewise, the brilliant but underrated Deadwood is all here (minus the recent movie coda). Parks and Recreation, Frasier, Peep Show, Lost, even Stargate SG1 are available for nostalgic folks with ample free time.
In the movie aisle, Stan houses a similar selection to what you’ll find elsewhere (with one notable difference, which we’ll cover a little further along). New release flicks are few and far between, but recent hits like Parasite and the Stan-produced Aussie horror Relic sit alongside older favourites like Dredd, The Hobbit, Pulp Fiction, Love Actually, Ace Ventura, Austin Powers, and Forrest Gump. And if you’re feeling sick of Hollywood, there’s an extensive selection of world movies. It’s not a huge library, but it is diverse and packed with favourites.
Stan’s Australian content
One of Stan’s biggest points of difference is Australian content, no doubt because of its local ownership and audience. Hamish & Andy are here in abundance, as are Channel Nine dramas like McLeod’s Daughters, Doctor Doctor, and House Husbands, not to mention every season of minor phenomenon Underbelly. Despite the existence of iView, there’s also a bunch of ABC shows, including Upper Middle Bogan and Four Corners specials.
Stan hasn’t produced much original content, but there are a few notable success stories, particularly two seasons of Wolf Creek and a season of Romper Stomper – both TV spins on classic Aussie movies. Oh, and don’t get us started on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under.
Stan’s 4K content and its limitations
Stan certainly has its feet dipped in the 4K pool, but only tentatively. Every James Bond movie is available in UHD glory, so if you’ve always wanted to peer closely at the pores on a young Sean Connery’s face, you can. No judgment on my part.
Alongside the Bond bounty, there’s an eclectic smattering of recent and older movies like Arrival, Tomb Raider, Creed, Hercules, Grease, and The Silence of the Lambs. The 4K TV selection is also somewhat limited, but unlike the movies, there’s some must-watch content, like Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Although the 4K picture quality is sharp and clear, in our tests Stan was far less successful than Netflix at hitting a stable 4K resolution quickly. Running on a very good cable connection that averages 110Mbps down, Hercules didn’t hit 4K at all after letting it run for five minutes. Strangely, this problem was solved by switching “auto” mode off and forcing Stan to only play in 4K (an option, it should be pointed out, that isn’t available on Netflix).
The bigger issue is a subtle but consistent frame rate stutter on certain devices. This was noticeable on both the Samsung TV app and the Xbox One app, but not on the PlayStation 4 Pro, so I’d recommend watching on that if you have that option.
Stan also falls a little short in the colour department. Unlike Netflix’s 4K content, Stan does not support high dynamic range (HDR), meaning colours are noticeably less vibrant. If you don’t have a 4K HDR TV this means absolutely nothing to you, but if you’re looking for the best possible picture quality, even Stan’s 4K library falls short of the mark.
How much data does Stan use?
Stan has four quality settings. At the lowest resolution, it uses 0.57GB per hour; at SD, 1.13GB; at HD, 2.89GB. And at the maximum UHD resolution, it’ll guzzle 7GB every hour. Plan your data caps accordingly.
In terms of required speeds, at the lowest end, Stan recommends a 2mbps connection for “good” quality (whatever that means); 3mbps for SD; 4.5mbps for HD; and 15mbps for 4K streaming. The 4K minimum requirement is a full 10mbps slower than Netflix’s, which is great for people that can’t quite reach 25mbps but is likely explained away by the lack of HDR support.
How to cancel Stan
Like its competitors, Stan subscriptions work on a month-by-month basis with no lock-in contract. You can cancel at any time by logging onto stan.com.au on a web browser on PC or Mac.
Stan vs Netflix vs the rest: Which is better?
Stan is a good service with the potential to be a fantastic one. Its library is impressive, particularly the selection of licensed prestige television, and the focus on Australian programming is admirable. The classic movies are arguably more interesting than Netflix’s, too.
Stan does fall behind Netflix in a few key areas, though. It crashes and bugs out far more often, and the UI is less intuitive and responsive. 4K picture quality is also noticeably less vibrant than Netflix’s HDR-capable equivalent.
And, as impressive as Stan’s library is, it just doesn’t produce the zeitgeist-dominating original content Netflix is known for. There’s no in-house equivalent to Stranger Things, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, etc., which are arguably the main reasons to subscribe to Netflix.
If you’re starting to feel like you’ve worn through your Netflix library, I’d wholeheartedly recommend switching to Stan and seeing how it suits you (you can currently get a no-commitment trial month for free). Better yet, with only minimal crossover, the catalogues complement each other well.
While we give the honours to Netflix overall, for a local upstart battling a global Giant, Stan punches well above its weight. It’s far better than it has any right to be.
As for how Stan fares in comparison to the litany of other subscription streaming services available in Australia, see how it stacks up below. For our money, we reckon it’s hard to beat Amazon Prime Video.
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