It’s not exactly news that Australians love their streaming services – Netflix and Stan have millions of viewers and, thanks to its keen pricing and many side benefits, Amazon Prime Video is closing the gap fast. For those who want them free, network TV catch-up services have done the job, supported by ads. Now, the Ten network has a new offering that they’d like you to support with your wallet. Is it worth the money?
The reason that 10 All Access exists at all is entirely because of the way things turned out last year when the embattled network was up for sale. Rupert Murdoch’s empire was keen to buy at a bargain price, but employees and shareholders had other ideas and sold to American network CBS instead. It hasn’t taken the new owners long at all to take a look at the Australian streaming market, see it was lucrative and fast-track a version of their paid streaming service here.
In the US, CBS All Access has been running for some time, and operates on a two-tiered system. You can pay $5.99 and put up with regular commercial breaks, or pay $9.99 and get the same service commercial-free. It’s a popular model in the US, but one we haven’t yet seen tried here. Instead, in Australia we’re used to the free-to-air streaming apps being, well, free. We expect ads on them, we expect short expiry dates on shows and we don’t mind because it doesn’t cost a cent (although seeing the same ad 12 times in an hour may cost you your sanity!).
Ten, of course, has long had the TenPlay streaming center, their free on-demand service which lets you catch up with recent episodes of all the current Ten shows, watch live streams of Ten’s channels and read the latest entertainment gossip. And for what it is, it’s been fine – if middling video quality and lengthy unskippable ad breaks don’t bother you. But with CBS now in charge, viewers are now given a second choice – 10 All Access. TenPlay isn’t going anywhere (not yet, anyway) – so what does 10 All Access offer that makes it worth paying for?
What Makes 10 All Access Different?
Your typical free-to-air catch-up service is there to serve exactly that purpose – and so will usually only offer the latest few episodes of shows, though there are exceptions (especially on ABC iView and SBS On Demand). That’s the case in the US as well, where the idea of premium services from free-to-air networks is to monetise their libraries of shows themselves, rather than giving them over to the likes of Netflix.
So, what you’ll find with 10 All Access is a collection of shows that usually (but not always – more on that later) offer entire seasons of episodes, just like you’d find on Netflix or Stan. To entice subscribers, these are supplemented by a small batch of original productions that were specifically made for CBS’s streaming platform (yep, like Netflix originals) and, in the US, by the adding of new episodes of shows as soon as they’ve aired.
10 All Access isn’t built on the same platform as TenPlay – instead, it’s a modified version of the CBS All Access service from the US. That means both the web site and the various apps are tried and tested and work well, but the necessity of removing many shows and some features for the Australian version has caused a strange kind of split. At the moment, if you want to stream live channels or catch up with current episodes of the shows Ten is airing, you’ll need TenPlay. But if you want to dig deep into entire seasons of shows that have already aired, you’ll want 10 All Access.
The question, then, is simple – does 10 All Access deliver enough content to be worth the $9.99 per month that they’re asking?
What Does 10 All Access Deliver?
Much of the coverage of 10 All Access in the media has focussed on what shows are missing compared to the US service – and that’s not really a fair comparison. Yes, there are shows on CBS All Access that you won’t find on the local version – not surprising, as the rights to these shows are tied up elsewhere on Australian TV or streaming. Big Bang Theory or God Friended Me simply can’t be added to the Australian service since they’re shown on other networks. But that’s not a hard and fast rule. For example, the long-running Survivor is screened by Nine in Australia, and as a result the current season isn’t here. But all 36 previous seasons are, in their entirety.
The same goes for most of the classic shows that CBS has the rights to – and if you’re a fan of classic television, what you’ll find here is something of a retro feast. How does every episode ever of Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place (the originals and the remakes) sound to you? Or CSI – every CSI, every episode? Or perhaps you want to binge the entirety of the classic Hawaii Five-0 and then spend a few weeks going through the entire nine years of the new version?
That’s what really leaps out with 10 All Access – it’s like a mini museum of classic TV melded with stuff from today. And yes, there’s Australian content as well – though that’s a bit of a mixed bag, as it turns out.
Does 10 All Access Have Unique Content?
Tell Me A Story Photo: TenPlay
It’s almost mandatory these days for a paid streaming service to offer original shows that you can’t find elsewhere, and 10 All Access has several of them – all produced for CBS’s streaming service. They’ve almost all made it to Australia – but there are a few that didn’t. Star Trek Discovery, which CBS sold to Netflix for everywhere outside the US, isn’t here. Nor is the US version of Stan show No Activity which, not surprisingly, is on Stan here. But The Good Fight, One Dollar, Strange Angel and Tell Me A Story are all here, and we assume the new Twilight Zone series will join them in 2019.
These are quality productions – The Good Fight is superb television – but with so few of them, they’re unlikely to be a drawcard for new subscribers just yet.
More of a curiosity than anything else, meanwhile, is the “live news” service, which is just a continuous live stream of the CBSN news service from the US (and therefore extremely US-focused).
What About Australian TV Shows?
You could almost be forgiven for thinking that this was CBS All Access with a Ten logo hastily pasted onto it, but despite the very heavy emphasis on the American CBS library, there are local Ten shows here. The mystery is why there’s so few of them.
You’ll find multiple seasons of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette if that’s your thing, or I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. There’s every episode ever of lifestyle reality show The Living Room – all seven seasons of it. And of course, there’s Neighbours, that bastion of Australian television, about to air episode 8000 (yes, eight thousand episodes). And how many seasons are on 10 All Access?
One. Just the 2018 season, and that’s all. Now, this may have more to do with complex rights issues than anything else (the show isn’t actually owned by Ten) but if ever there was a reason to go back and stream classic TV, Neighbours is it, with everyone from Kylie to Margot Robbie having made their acting debuts on the show. Maybe more will be added later – it would surely be a big selling point for a lot of viewers.
And that’s it for the Aussie content. Nothing else currently on Ten is here – instead, you have to head to TenPlay to watch anything from Pointless to The Project. And that’s free.
The 10 All Access User Experience
The 10 All Access User Experience. Photo: TenPlay
Okay, first, the good news. 10 All Access gets the undeniable advantage of running on an app platform that’s been tried and tested long-term in the US. So everything from web site to device apps works well and provides a smooth, user-friendly experience. The Apple TV app even supports that device’s “up next” feature to make it easy to jump back in to shows you’re binge-revisiting.
However, unlike most Australian streaming services, user profiles aren’t supported at all. A weird thing, considering you’re allowed to stream on three screens at once; keeping track of which family members is up to which episode could be a recipe for confusion.
Picture quality is a mixed bag, too. 10 All Access supports HD and, in fact, encodes everything as a HD video stream even if the source material isn’t high definition at all. So recent years of Survivor, for example, look stunning – flawless HD, the best it’s ever looked on TV here. The same goes for recent comedies and dramas, too. But dig back into the past and you’d better be prepared for a shock – many of the old shows here look simply dreadful. Classic sitcom Family Ties, for example, looks worse than an ancient VHS tape.
And then there’s the Australian stuff. The Bachelor is in HD (though looking a little sub-par) but, unforgivably, some of the other Aussie shows are not. Neighbours has been produced in HD for years but, for whatever reason, is in blurry SD here. We hope whoever’s in charge of Ten’s library lifts their game in this department.
And one more annoyance; a few shows are offered here incomplete. If you happen to be a fan of Touched by an Angel, for example, you’ll be unimpressed when you find that many episodes are missing. Seasons 4 and 5 only have two episodes each available from 22-episode seasons. The reason for this is unknown, but it’s not an Australia thing. They’re missing on CBS All Access as well.
How to Watch 10 All Access – and the Cost
While 10 All Access doesn’t have quite the same wide library of platforms supported as its American counterpart, it’s well supported out of the gate with apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets, fully Chromecast enabled. There’s also an excellent Apple TV app as well as one for Android TV (including both Sony TVs and other brands of streaming box like Nvidia Shield).
As is traditional with streaming services, the first month of viewing is free of charge, and then a monthly cost of $9.99 applies. This isn’t too obnoxious a price if you’re into classic TV, bit it has to be looked at in a world that includes Netflix, Stan and especially Amazon Prime Video, the latter of which costs half what Ten is asking and provides a lot more content.
Still, fans of the shows here will probably be happy paying, at least for a while (we’re enjoying catching up on many seasons of Survivor here!). Hopefully we’ll see more current additions in the near future, such as next-day ad-free episodes of popular shows.
Streaming TV & Movies Plans
The Verdict – Not-Quite-All Access
It’s great to see a fresh approach to free-to-air streaming in Australia, getting away from “catch-up” and into proper streaming of libraries of shows. It’s worked well in the US and probably will here as well. Yes, some shows are missing, but Ten could easily make up for that by actually adding more of their own back catalogue.
Picture quality varies wildly; if you’re after the newer stuff you’ll be happy with the HD goodness, but some of the older material (or current Australian stuff) leaves a lot to be desired.
Is it worth the $9.99 a month? If you’ve got the tenner to spare, yes, it probably is, at least for a while, assuming at least a few of the shows on offer appeal to you. To compete long-term, though, 10 All Access is going to need to expand its library and integrate this service better with what’s happening on the actual network – something that TenPlay currently still does better, for free.