SBS On Demand Review


Summary

Our Verdict

SBS On Demand


SBS on Demand is an extremely robust catch-up service fused with a virtual video library's worth of free movies

 
Overall 90%
Content
Usability
Value

Whether you’re interested in news, the arts, art-house movies, UK drama, or cutting-edge Australian comedies, dramas, and documentaries, there’s going to be something on SBS on Demand to grab your attention.

      Named Australia’s “multicultural ABC” when it first went to air, SBS has broadened its scope over the years to become a much-loved home of quality TV and film from around the world, as well as a producer of TV shows and films of its own. Consequently, they’ve amassed a huge and diverse library of content.

SBS on Demand has been running as the network’s catch-up service for over six years. It’s had time to develop into a comprehensive portal for all things SBS, part of the broader SBS website, which contains sections for all facets of the broadcaster, from news, sport, and food, to indigenous TV (via their digital channel NITV).

SBS on Demand has something for everyone

SBS on Demand has something for everyone. Photo: SBS on Demand Official Website

For the most basic needs, there’s a “Catch up from last night” menu option prominently visible in the “Programs” menu. However, the site also encourages casual browsing, which is fast and intuitive, providing a great user experience. The usual browse-by-genre and by-channel options are there, with the network’s current offerings mostly limited to recently-aired episodes. There are exceptions — in some cases, entire seasons are available for on-demand viewing. And yes, The Handmaid’s Tale is here in its entirety!

Great for Movie Lovers

SBS on Demand offers plenty of movies to choose from

Fancy a movie marathon? SBS on Demand has you covered. Photo: SBS on Demand Official Website

Then, you notice the movies section. SBS on Demand has a lot of movies — over 650 of them, at the time of writing. This vast library of films from around the world includes plenty of well known and acclaimed choices, along with many more obscure surprises, all there, ready to try out when you’re in the mood for something new.

The movie section is also sorted into categories to make browsing easier, so you can choose from films that “Tarantino Loves”, or films nominated for Oscars, or chosen to compete in Cannes. Or maybe take your chances with the “Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll” category (yes, it does mean what you think it means!).

While SBS is, like the ABC, a government-funded network, it has long carried advertising on its broadcast channels to help pay for the costs of purchasing programming and running the network. So it’s not surprising that ads are included before and during shows and movies here as well, whether watching via the web site or one of the apps. It’s not overdone; a typical movie has only three breaks of two ads apiece.

As for catch-up, most videos coming through to SBS On Demand are available for 14 or 30 days. Watching videos on SBS On Demand will count towards your download limit, so keep that in mind if you stream using mobile data. Closed captions are available on selected titles.

Available Apps

SBS on Demand is available on a wide range of devices

SBS on Demand offers support for a wide range of devices. Photo: SBS on Demand Official Website

Speaking of apps, SBS covers most devices. Of course there’s the obligatory phone and tablet apps, which are available for iPhone and  iPad, Android, and even Windows Phone. You can watch on game consoles, or even better, on Smart TVs from Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, and others. Fetch TV and Telstra TV have native apps, as does Windows 10 via its app store. And naturally there’s a slick, well designed app for the Apple TV.

And just to prove that they can get SBS onto just about any device you can think of, they’ve got an app for your Kindle Reader as well! The website is very responsive and will scale down to any device that it is accessed from, allowing for an interface that is easy to navigate and that also showcases the wide range of content on offer.

Picture quality is solid and adjusts automatically based on bandwidth, but as with most catch-up services, you can expect standard definition quality much of the time, with slightly blocky 720p being the closest thing to HD you’re likely to see.

Verdict

With an extremely robust catch-up service fused with a virtual video library’s worth of free movies, SBS on Demand is well worth visiting — even if you’re merely looking around rather than tracking down the episode of The Handmaid’s Tale you missed last night. As always, higher quality video would be welcome, but the SBS team has done a great job here under a very limited budget.