Australian streaming service Stan has announced a new long-term licensing agreement with US cable television network Showtime. The deal gives Stan exclusive rights to popular TV shows including House of Lies, Penny Dreadful, Dexter, Californication and the new season of Twin Peaks. It also includes Star Trek -- all of it. With Netflix moving to shut down access to its US catalogue, could it be time for Aussies to switch to a different streaming service?
Firstly, let's get some disclosure out of the way: Lifehacker is published by Allure Media, and Fairfax (which has a 50 per cent stake in Stan) owns Allure Media. The opinions contained in this article are my own.
It's been a while coming, but Stan is finally beginning to pick up steam in its fight for Aussie lounge rooms. Following last year's announcement of locally-produced original TV shows, the streaming service has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Showtime. The deal kicks into effect this week, with a slew of new shows added to Stan's existing catalogue.
In addition to the aforementioned Showtime series, the deal also includes exclusive rights to content from the cable network's owner CBS. (Some of the CBS shows coming to the service include Madam Secretary, Limitless, Elementary, Scorpion, Under the Dome, Extant, Beauty and the Beast and Reign.)
But perhaps the biggest coup for sci-fi fans is exclusive access to every episode of Star Trek -- from the original series right up to Deep Space Nine. Both series have also been digitally remastered. [Note: Some of the aforementioned shows were already available on Stan, but they're now "exclusive" content which means you can't watch them on any other entertainment service provider in Australia.]
If you're currently enjoying Showtime content on Foxtel or free-to-air TV, there's not need to panic -- yet. These shows will continue to run until their existing contracts expire. Only then will they migrate exclusively to Stan.
This announcement couldn't come at a better time for Stan. Last week, Netflix made a lot of Australian customers angry when it moved to block VPN users from accessing its larger US catalogue (story here). In place of the US version of Netflix, affected users have been receiving a message instructing them to turn off their unblockers and proxies. Boo.
However, we suspect this announcement probably won't be enough to entice regular Netflix users away from the service. Stan currently has 700,000 existing subscribers while Netflix's Australian user base exceeds one million. This is despite Stan having a two-month head start Down Under.
Then there's Netflix's decision to double down on original content -- this year, the company has announced it will release 31 series, including new shows such as Baz Luhrmann’s The Getdown and Queen Elisabeth biopic The Crown. There will also be 24 original feature films and documentaries, 30 original kids series and new stand-up comedy specials.
Compared to all this, Stan's Showtime triumph looks a lot less impressive. Doubtlessly, it will score some disgruntled geo-dodgers looking to make a vengeful switch, but for the most part the deal is unlikely to change Australia's streaming landscape much. Nevertheless, it's nice to see the local challenger stirring things up. Could a monthly price drop also be on the cards? Exciting times are ahead.
We'll be putting both streaming services through their paces alongside Foxtel's Presto in a future Planhacker. Watch this space!