SVOD: Stan, Presto, Netflix, Quickflix

I’ve been pondering Streaming Video On Demand (SVOD) services.

The thinking goes like this:

Let’s say I want to watch Breaking Bad. I’ve heard great things about it, and I love high-quality long-form drama that good television provides.

Blu-ray is the best way to watch this type of drama, for the ultimate in (domestically-available) quality picture and sound. But I don’t want to buy all the Blu-rays as I’ll probably only watch it once, then will have paid a bunch of money for a bunch of discs I have to find space for in the bookshelf.

And discs aren’t always perfect. I started watching my Newsroom season 2 Blu-rays, which I got last year. The first disc has a fault. Episodes skip. I have no idea if I have the receipt anywhere. Mind you, in a decade of buying DVDs and Blu-rays, this is actually the first time I’ve struck such a problem.)


The emergence of SVOD services offers a solution. Pay a monthly fee of about ten dollars (even a year’s worth would be a lot less than buying all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad on DVD) to watch video streaming onto my television.

Most of the services will work with computers, and also through Android/iOS apps via Chromecast onto a TV.

As it happens, I just bought a Chromecast. At $50, it’s cheaper than the official WiFi adapter for my television, and infinitely more flexible. Neat device. Youtube looks great on it.

I’ve also tried iView on it. It’s choppy — the ABC know about this, it’s only a beta version. Hopefully it’ll be fixed soon.

So anyway, which SVOD service to go for?

Stan (Fairfax/Channel 9)

  • $9.99 per month. Works with ChromeCast. Includes HD. Uses Silverlight if watching on a PC browser — ugh!
  • Includes Breaking Bad and the prequel Better Call Saul.
  • Looks like they’re considering original programming too.
  • There’s a 30 day free trial


  • They make it really hard to find the price, but it’s $9.99/month if you just want streaming, not the DVD rental option.
  • Includes HD. Great content, but most HBO material seems to be premium, eg $2.99 per episode.
  • Trial offer: 3 weeks free


  • Set to launch on March 24th, and expected to be about $10 a month — at least for Standard Definition — there apparently will be HD and Ultra-HD plans as well.
  • Presumably will include Netflix exclusives such as House Of Cards — which I’ve started watching on Blu-ray, and am loving. It looks glorious in HD, by the way.
  • Safe to assume it won’t include HBO content, given they are competitors in the USA.
  • Unmetered on iiNet (which I use), as well as Optus and presumably more ISPs to follow

Foxtel Presto (Foxtel/Channel 7)

  • Apparently no HD. $9.99 for TV, or $9.99 for movies, or $14.99 if you want both. (I’m probably more interested in TV than film.)
  • Presumably a lot of channel 7 content will be on here, including a lot of ITV stuff, since they have content deals.
  • Also seems to have some Foxtel-produced television on it, such as the adaption of Cloudstreet.
  • Speculation this will include Game Of Thrones, but that’s far from certain, as HBO apparently doesn’t allow it on SVOD services. If it does I’m probably sold. It does seem to include older HBO material such as Boardwalk Empire, the Newsroom (season 1 only, drat) and The Sopranos (all).
  • I’m quite keen to see Tony Robinson’s (Australian) Time Walks, which was made for Foxtel — I can’t see it on there though. You’d think they’d put on as much Foxtel-exclusive content as they could, to differentiate themselves.

ChromeCast and Presto had a free 2 month subscription offer (it expired at the end of February), so I’ve signed up to Presto and had a little look. The range isn’t huge — there’s probably more shows on iView, though fewer episodes — but is growing all the time.

The playback quality seems okay. The iPad app is a bit beta-ish when using it with Chromecast though — normal playback onto the iPad shows, as you’d expect, a Pause or Stop button. When sending it to the Chromecast, all you can do is Stop Chromecasting. There’s no actual Pause — all you can do is stop, then if you want to start again, it’ll give you the option of resuming. Even skipping back doesn’t seem to work.

Which is/are worth paying for?

HD would be very nice to have, though bandwidth might be an issue with the services that offer it. Stan recommends 3.5 mbps for 720p, or 6.5 mbps for 1080p, and I’d expect the other services to be similar. (Hmm, I just ran a test: line speed 9.2 mbps, download speed 1.12 MB/s).

I’ll keep playing with Presto, and given Stan also has a free 30 day trial, try that out as well. But I’ll definitely try Netflix when it’s available too.

One more thing… if you like House Of Cards, I suspect you’ll love this Sesame Street parody:

The West Wing looks ahead to the 21st century

In my house, we’re re-watching The West Wing, after I bought the box set cheap last year as a present to myself.

It’s just as brilliant as it ever was, and once again leaves you wishing that Barlet actually ran the White House… or if he wasn’t in the White House, then maybe in The Lodge.

The show is full of snappy dialogue, but this bit from season 1, episode 9 struck me as particularly prescient, given the debate both in Australia and abroad around privacy, and specifically issues such as data retention.

Sam Seaborn on privacy, in The West Wing S1E09

In the scene, which comes during selection of a Supreme Court Nominee, Sam Seaborn notes the important issues of the past decades, but then says in the years we’re living right now what will be important will be privacy and data, especially online.

That Sam Seaborn (and more specifically, the writers headed up by Aaron Sorkin) are smart cookies.

I’m loving watching it again.

Geek central, Melbourne

They say geek is the cool, right?

Geek central in Melbourne must be the corner of Elizabeth and Little Collins Streets.

Why? Because within a few metres are no less than three pop culture shops:

Firstly, there’s the Doctor Who “popup” (eg temporary, until January) shop. Actually it has Sherlock merchandise too, which probably makes it more of a Steven Moffat shop.
Doctor Who Popup Shop, Melbourne, Summer 2014-15

Secondly, a little further up Little Collins Street is this shop, which as far as I can tell, has no actual name. At least, none prominently on display. (Professor Google says it’s called “Critical Hit“.)
Collins Gate pop culture shop

Thirdly, that old favourite, Minotaur. I used to shop there in the 80s when it was in Swanston Street. Then it moved to Bourke Street, and more recently(ish, well, probably 10+ years ago now) to Elizabeth Street — the former Melbourne Sports Depot, I think.

Also nearby:

EBGames in Swanston Street (also a former Melbourne Sports Depot?) has opened a geek section in their basement.

The ABC Shop has moved to Emporium.

Why does the government want to kill Community TV?

It takes a special kind of cunning to first nobble the National Broadband Network, that if fully implemented might have been able to reliably deliver realtime high-definition video into homes…

…and then cancel community television licences, and demand those stations go online instead.

Obsolescence, sculpture in Bourke St Mall

This seems like a bad idea in many ways, not the least of which is that many of the disenfranchised and elderly members of our society who might use community TV may be less likely to have good quality internet connections.

Community TV doesn’t just broadcast programmes and issues that can’t get an airing on mainstream channels, it’s also a training ground for talent, and to help that happen, the broadcasts need to be easily found. Having them on free-to-air helps achieve this. Even fewer would watch if they were a hidden needle in the YouTube haystack.

It’d be a crying shame if these stations around the country could no longer broadcast, while the apparently precious broadcast spectrum is used for multiple stations which just play ads all day every day (SpreeTV, TVSN, Fresh Ideas, Extra, Extra 2).

One proposal was that community TV could take over unused SBS channel 31. Great idea! Nope — the Government says No. Why on earth are they so keen to get these channels off air?!

Commit To Community TV campaign

Doctor Who breaks new ground for television

It would seem Doctor Who is breaking new ground in some interesting ways.

They’ve engineered a “world tour” which involves the show’s stars jetting around the world for live appearances in 6 cities around the globe over about a week. It’s just about finished now… I’d imagine they’d be suffering horribly from jetlag by the time they get back to the UK. It was a set of public screenings for fans, but given limited capacity at each venue, I suspect was mostly set up as a media event.

Doctor Who: Deep Breath cinema ad, The Age, 15/8/2014

Next week “Deep Breath”, the new series opening episode will be simulcast on the ABC at the same time as it airs in Britain — 7:50pm Saturday in the UK, 4:50am Sunday in eastern Australia. It’ll then be available on iView straight afterwards, with a prime time repeat at 7:30pm. The same occurred with the 50th anniversary episode “Day Of The Doctor” last November.

It’ll also be shown in the cinemas on the Sunday: from the looks of listings on, almost 100 cinemas in Victoria alone will show it.

Cinemas do seem to be moving into this kind of special event area. Perhaps they are looking to diversify from traditional movies, and also sensing that people will willingly pay a higher “event” price: Village is charging $25 for tickets, about $6 more than the normal price, and $40 for Gold Class, which is about the usual price. So they’ve recently taken on screenings such as showing the Monty Python live concert from London, a similar Stephen Fry event, classical music concerts and operas — and Doctor Who episodes — “Deep Breath” follows “Day Of The Doctor” in this regard, and recently some cinemas have also shown episodes in the past (though well after the TV broadcast).

I guess the production of TV programmes in 1080p HD now allows projection onto the big screen, and digital media allows distributors to rush it to cinemas worldwide without messing about trying to get physical film out there. But still, in the world of television, this and the simulcast appear to be almost unique to Doctor Who.

Of course there’s long been a relationship between TV and cinema. In the 60s in particular it was common for TV series (particularly in the UK) to be remade as films, sometimes with the same cast and writers, and considered part of the TV series; sometimes independent (as with the 1960s Doctor Who movies).

Many of our family is going to see “Deep Breath” in the cinema. The kids are going to screenings with their friends — M and myself have splurged on Gold Class, and will most likely avoid the early TV broadcast and try and avoid spoilers until we see it on the big screen. (I avoided seeing “Day Of The Doctor” because it was only shown in 3D, which doesn’t work on me.)

Notably, booking on the Village Cinemas web site, we found that on top of the ticket price there was a $2 booking fee for standard tickets… but a whopping $10 for Gold Class. Using the identical web site of course, and you have to print the ticket or show it on your mobile phone. The cheek of it.

Oh well, cost aside, it should be great — but it makes me wonder: Doctor Who is probably helped into this situation by being a cult show that’s also very popular, and being targeted at all ages… but is any other TV show getting this kind of treatment?