UPDATE: Stan subscribers can now stream a selection of shows in 4K quality. Find out more below.
Updated article continues below:
Now that streaming media has become a mainstay in Australian homes, Aussies have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to getting their home entertainment fix.
When combined, Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video offer an enormous range of content that can be instantly streamed into your home. However, if you can only afford one subscription service, narrowing down a definitive choice can be harder than it seems.
As each service brings with it a unique range of television shows and movies aimed at different segments of the streaming audience, not to mention differing price points, device compatibility and streaming qualities, we've taken it upon ourselves bring you an in-depth guide to what you can expect from Australia's three major SVOD platforms.
With the constantly evolving nature of each service discussed in this guide, we will endeavour to keep you updated on any significant changes and updates that may occur to these streaming giants in the future.
Here's how the Australian streaming situation stacks up in 2016.
Netflix vs Stan vs Amazon Prime Video: price
Probably the best thing about having so many streaming options to choose from, is that it forces each service to be priced competitively.
Last to arrive to Australia, Netflix offers the cheapest stream of the main three, with a single stream in standard definition at $8.99, which, if we're being honest, isn't particularly good value, but may appeal to those who live alone and have a poor quality internet connection.
Thankfully, for $11.99 a month you can get a dual-stream subscription that offers HD streaming quality.
If 4K streams are what you're after, you'll need to subscribe to Netflix's premium package, which costs $14.99 a month and allows you to watch the service on four devices simultaneously. This is probably the most ideal subscription for families with differing tastes in shows and movies.
It should also be noted that a proposed Netflix Tax may raise the price slightly in the near in future.
Though Netflix is obviously working off of how it's priced overseas, Stan has chosen to come out at the low, no-nonsense price of $10 a month. That's for everything the service has to offer at a maximum resolution of 1080p.
If you want to make use of your 4K TV though, you can upgrade to a Premium Stan subscription for $15 a month. So far, Stan has nine of its exclusive shows available to stream at 4K quality, including the likes of Better Call Saul, Breaking Bad, Preacher and Wolf Creek.
These kinds of prices cut straight to the point – once you've tested the service's 30 day trial, you're either on board with forking over a tenner (or an extra fiver) each month, or you're not.
Undercutting Netflix's pricing substantially, Amazon has a special introductory offer that grants new subscribers access to the service for a monthly fee US$2.99 (AU$4) for the first six months, after which it will renew at US$5.99 (AU$8) each month after that.
Netflix vs Stan vs Amazon Prime Video: devices
For many people, the decision of which streaming service to sign up for may come down to the devices they own.
Netflix has the biggest global reach and has been around the longest, which is why it can be streamed on the largest number of devices.
The Netflix app is available on a wide range of smart TVs from manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, LG, Panasonic, Philips and Hisense, though you should check your television model to see if the service is supported. Stan is available on all 2013-2015 Samsung smart TVs featuring Smart Hub software, 2014-2016 Sony smart TVs (running Android TV) and all 2014-2015 LG smart TVs running WebOS and Netcast software.
It's also just been announced that Stan is now streaming on selected 2015 and 2016 model Hisense smart TVs, and will also be available on every Hisense TV released in 2017.
At present, Amazon Prime Video only officially offers its service in Australia through computer browsers, however, the Amazon Prime app has sneakily appeared on a number of 4K smart TVs, such as Sony's Android TV models. Before settling on Prime, you should check and see if you smart TV has an app for it.
And, while Amazon Prime Video hasn't officially released console apps in Australia yet, there is a simple trick to streaming the service on your Xbox One.
If your smart TV is of the 4K/UHD variety, chances are that its Netflix app supports 4K streaming. You can also get a 4K Netflix stream for the latest wave of Ultra HD Blu-ray players, such as the Panasonic DMP-UB900 and the Samsung UBD-K8500. Microsoft's newest console, the Xbox One S, also offers 4K playback.
The Apple TV also supports Netflix and has features built around service, such as the ability to use Siri to search for titles by voice, which places Netflix titles appear alongside iTunes listings. A Stan app is also available for Apple TV, but Amazon won't allow its app on Apple TV or Chromecast for business reasons. With that said, you should be able to display Amazon Prime Video on your Apple TV through AirPlay. So far, Siri functionality is only available to Netflix.
When it comes to game consoles, Netflix has the biggest reach, with apps for Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One S, PS3, PS4 and the Nintendo Wii U. Stan has most of the consoles covered but lacks support for Xbox 360 and Wii U.
Netflix and Stan are also available on Fetch TV, which is quite handy for the hundreds of thousands of Australians currently subscribed to Fetch.
If you don't have any of the TV-connected devices listed above and still want to watch Netflix and Stan on your television, each service can also be streamed to a Google Chromecast, which ostensibly provides regular TVs with smart TV functionality (so long as you have a smartphone or tablet to stream from).
Finally, you can watch Netflix and Stan on the Roku 2-powered Telstra TV media streaming box.
Netflix vs Stan vs Amazon Prime Video: kids
When it comes to kids shows and movies, each service has its own strengths and weaknesses.
Stan has a wide selection of children-friendly shows that mostly stem from its partnerships with Turner Broadcasting (the Cartoon Network), the ABC and Viacom.
Cartoon Network favourites like Adventure Time, Ben 10, Regular Show, The Powerpuff Girls, Cow and Chicken, Generator Rex and Ed, Edd, n Eddy are all ready to stream on Stan.
Likewise, classic ABC titles like The Wiggles, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Guess How Much I Love You and Justine Clarke, as well as overseas titles like Octonauts, Angelina Ballerina, Bob the Builder, Thomas and Friends, Fireman Sam, Sesame Street and Mister Maker are available to stream on the app, and its Viacom deal brings with it a large range of shows from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr, like Avatar: The Last Airbender; Octonauts, Ni Hao, Kai-Lan, Bubble Guppies, and popular live-action shows like iCarly, VICTORiOUS, and Drake & Josh.
Like the rest of Amazon Prime Video's content library, its Kids selection is quite sparse at present. You'll find a number of Amazon Original kids shows you've probably never heard of, like Wishenpoof!, Tumble Leaf and Just Add Magic, alongside some tried-and-true kids movies classics, like The Little Rascals, Casper, Spy Kids and Babe.
Netflix also has a wide-ranging partnership with Walt Disney, bringing with it films and TV shows from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm.
Animation fans will be happy to know that Netflix has also produced some original shows based on classic DreamWorks properties, including Puss in Boots and How to Train Your Dragon.
Deals with other big children's program distributors Saban, DHX Media and Hasbro Studios have also provided Netflix with numerous incarnations of Power Rangers and My Little Pony.
Special mention should also be given to inclusion of the classic Aussie kid's show, Round the Twist, on both Netflix and Stan's respective catalogues.
Netflix vs Stan vs Amazon Prime Video: TV
A wide and varied range of television shows are available on Netflix, Stan and Amazon Prime Video, thanks to individual deals between each of the SVOD services and their content partners. Because of this, each service should have something for everyone in your family.
While there's a lot of crossover when it comes to the availability of shows on each platform, perhaps the most important deciding factor comes down to the exclusives and original shows available on each service.
Netflix is without question the leader in this regard, with a large, global slate of original shows that are, for the most part, available in every one of its territories around the world.
The service has achieved huge success with its diverse lineup, which includes award-winning shows House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, long-form superhero shows like Marvel's Daredevil and Jessica Jones, internationally-targeted shows like Narcos, animated sitcoms such as BoJack Horseman and F is For Family, comedies like Fuller House, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Master of None, and countless stand up comedy specials, to name but a small selection from its rapidly-expanding library.
Though Stan is only available in Australia, it has already begun creating its own original content, having produced the improvised comedy series No Activity, the upcoming TV spin-off of Wolf Creek and the second season of Plonk.
Stan is notable for also having a large range of exclusive shows in its stable, with Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, Power, UnReal, Community, Lost Girl, Dig, Gallipoli, Ash vs Evil Dead, 11.22.63 and Better Call Saul tied to the service for the entire life of each series.
Stan also fast-tracks new episodes of its exclusive shows as soon as they air overseas, a practise that both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video has since adopted with such shows as Riverdale and American Gods.
As the newest service to hit Australian shores, Amazon Prime Video doesn't currently have much of a content library on offer, then again, that probably goes a long way to explaining why the subscription price is so cheap for the first six months.
Most people considering a Prime subscription are probably looking to watch The Grand Tour, the new car enthusiast show from the team behind the beloved series, Top Gear. If that's what you're after, you'll happy to know that every available episode of the series is available on Amazon Prime Video in HDR, with new episodes arriving weekly. Aside from that, the big drawcard at the moment is American Gods, a hyped new show based on the immensely popular Neil Gaiman novel of the same name.
Other big Amazon Original shows include Mozart in the Jungle and Transparent, though these shows have been available on Stan direct from the US for quite some time. That said, there are others which are only available to stream on Amazon Prime, including The Man in the High Castle, Red Oaks, Hand of God and Bosch.
You'll also find a small selection of classic shows, like The Shield and Justified.
Netflix vs Stan vs Amazon Prime Video: movies
As with most SVOD services, the titles available on Netflix, Stan and Presto change occasionally according to content licensing agreements. That said, each service has a pretty decent collection of films aimed at slightly different audiences.
Despite what people will tell you about Australian Netflix compared to its US version, the local service has a pretty impressive lineup of blockbuster titles which focus on quality over quantity.
Netflix's aforementioned partnership with Disney also extends to movies, with titles such as Marvel's Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man ready to stream, as well as animated films like Zootopia and Inside Out.
Netflix has also started acquiring and creating its own films under its Netflix Originals banner, with titles like Beasts of No Nation, Ridiculous 6 and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 2: Sword of Destiny already available to stream.
Amazon Prime Video offers a number of classic older films, including Pulp Fiction, Scarface, Jurassic Park, Scream, Serenity, American Pie and more, though nothing too recent is currently available to stream. Its recent Amazon Original film The Neon Demon, for instance, is currently geo-restricted.
Unfortunately, Stan doesn't provide access to any Disney content at all, which does feel like a pretty big hole in its otherwise impressive lineup.
It does however, provide a big selection of Roadshow Entertainment titles, including huge films like Mad Max: Fury Road, The LEGO Movie, The Hunger Games series, Edge of Tomorrow, The Matrix trilogy, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and more.
A content deal with MGM also provides Stan with a large back catalogue of classic films, including the entire James Bond series (minus the most recent addition, Spectre), The Silence of the Lambs, When Harry Met Sally and a huge selection of Woody Allen films.
While Netflix's movie library is more mainstream in nature, Stan is easily the leading streaming service when it comes to art films and world cinema, with its SBS World Movies partnership providing access to films from over 45 countries in more than 70 languages.
Netflix vs Stan vs Amazon Prime Video: streaming quality
All three services offer HD streams (unless you're subscribed to Netflix's lowest tier), however, Netflix is unquestionably the leader when it comes to streaming quality, as it offers the most 4K Ultra HD content (top pricing tier only) of any of the services listed here.
Netflix Originals, with some exceptions, are generally available in 4K streaming quality. The service has also started streaming HDR (high-dynamic-range) content, kicking off with the first season of Marco Polo and eventually adding it to more shows in the near future (though you'll need a smart TV that supports HDR to watch it that way).
The service has an adaptive bit rate that adjusts itself based on the quality of your internet connection. It should be noted that, even if you have a blazing fast connection, Netflix will occasionally fail to reach full resolution during primetime hours due to congestion.
Stan also uses adaptive bit rate technology, however it also offers users the ability to select the streaming quality of its shows (where available). The high setting offers full 1080p resolution, the medium setting offers 720p resolution, and the low setting offers up a standard definition stream.
Unlike its competitors, Stan allows users to select the quality of their streams on smart devices, media devices and smart TVs. Simply select the cog icon and choose between Low, Medium and High quality streams. This is especially handy if you're having buffering problems or if you're streaming off mobile data.
Though it's not available yet, Stan has announced that 4K streams will be coming to the service in 2017.
With Netflix adding offline viewing to its subscription price, allowing using to download a selection of shows and movies to their devices for viewing outside of Wi-Fi networks, the service immediately increased its overall value.
Thankfully, Stan has followed suit, and now allows subscribers to download the vast majority of its content. This makes its $10 monthly price point even more of a bargain than it already was.
It's hard to determine which resolutions Amazon Prime Video currently offers, as the app hasn't really been made officially available outside of iOS and Android. Browser lets you watch in SD or Auto, which doesn't necessarily mean HD, though HD streams do appear when watching shows on Xbox One. In the UK and US, Amazon is much more forthcoming about its streaming qualities, advertising 4K HDR content. We will have to wait and see what happens when more device support is officially added for Prime Video in Australia.
Though each service has its own strengths and weaknesses, Netflix is unquestionably the winner when it comes to device compatibility, original content and stream quality.
Its library of Netflix Originals continues to grow and maintain a generally high level of quality, with the service producing the kind of content that gives HBO a run for its money when it comes to premium programming.
When you ignore its standard definition pricing option (and we ignore it pretty hard around these parts), Stan's flat $10 subscription fee is definitely more appealing for people who want access to a HD stream, but when you consider how many original shows Netflix produces, a couple of extra bucks a month is hardly a deal-breaker.
Though it's great that Amazon Prime Video has made its way to Australia, it still has a long, long way to go in terms of growing its content library and list of compatible devices. At present, unless you're a die-hard fan of the Top Gear boys, the best reason to sign up is its new exclusive series, American Gods.
Thankfully, the service is quite inexpensive at the moment, so if you want to try it out for yourself anyway, you can do so without breaking the budget.
Still, when all is said and done, there's no denying that Netflix truly is the king of streaming media in Australia.