Dan Barrett

Dan Barrett is the Content Director of Televised Revolution. His musings on television have been heard across ABC Radio, on websites like The Guardian and Crikey, and drunkenly in pubs across the country. At night he spends too many hours watching repeats of Cheers.

The Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Panel – Not Just Crazies

Over The Top voices were curiously absent from tonight’s Copyright panel in Sydney this evening. The panel was convened to provide public facing consultation following responses to the Federal Governments Online Copyright Infringement Discussion Paper and served as a veritable who’s who of the paid Australian media landscape.

In attendance was Peter Duncan (the Australian writer/director of Australian films/TV including Children of The Revolution and Rake), outspoken Village Roadshow co-Chairman Graham Burke, Telstra’s Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs Jane Van Beelan, Foxtel CEO Richard Freudenstein, iiNet CEO David Buckingham, APRA’s Brett Cottle, and CHOICE head Alan Kirkland.

The audience was packed with media and technology journalists, staff of the companies represented on the panel, government staffers, and interested members of the public. The number of ‘crazies’ feared by Graham Burke were kept to a minimum.

Missing from the panel seemed to be anyone without a financial stake in the copyright issue. Issues of cultural capital, new business development growth, and consumer-focused innovation were clearly not to be a focus of this panel. No, this was set to be a conversation based around how corporations must do something to stop piracy that is affecting their bottom line.

As CHOICE CEO Alan Kirkland stated during the panel, nobody is necessarily pro-piracy, but rather consumers are eager to see content priced at a reasonable and equitable price point and for it to be made widely available. Beyond Kirkland, the rest of the panel were made up of industry leaders who have a significant financial stake in maintaining the status quo. Certainly, industry leaders should have a voice. TV in Australia would be a poorer place culturally if it weren’t for providers like Foxtel. But, if Foxtel were to go away, the market would open to other, more innovative providers.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.32.17 pm

It was interesting to note that there was no representation from the Australian FTA TV broadcasters, OTT subscription services like Quickflix, or much of a look-in from academia. Also missing was the true voice of the consumer as delivered via Twitter.

Just as a video over the top service lays it’s content over established networks to deliver services like streaming movies, Twitter served as an OTT conversation to that taking place in the room. Unsurprisingly the voice of the many was angry and highly sceptical of those speaking.

Australian content consumers are angry. And justifiably so. Quite regularly they are paying more money for the same content available overseas. Also, the delay time between content airing overseas and airing locally is substantial. This follows years of Australian TV consumers being treated poorly. We all have tales of shows being taken from the schedule just episodes into a season without notice, midnight to dawn burn-offs of series, and shows taking years to be played locally… often briefly before being taken off the air just episodes into a season or dumped into unfavourable time slots.

The Internet has served as the true democratisation of consumer choice and Australian audiences are keen to exercise that democracy. The reason why TV piracy rates in Australia are so high is simply because content is now available uninterrupted, in higher quality (actual HD), and within hours of its initial screening. Viewers for the first time can now watch what they want to watch, when they want to watch it.

So, while the on stage panel were defending the rights of big business to protect their IP, Twitter was awash with bitter commentary from those watching the livestream of the panel.

In an interesting move, Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull quite regularly took questions and comments from VIP’s on the floor. These comments came from academics and organisations like Google who offered a strong counterpoint to the views of those on stage. It can be presumed that those on the panel likely would not have appeared had it not been stacked in the manner it was.

Of significant note were the comments of Google’s Ishtar Vij who eloquently spoke on the revenue generated through live streaming events, representing the voice of a different emerging content provider.

At risk also is a considerable amount of cultural capital. While piracy is certainly not desirable, piracy does lead to the curation of otherwise lost or unreleased material.

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.34.01 pmMost surprising of the speakers was how well Graham Burke put forward his case before losing weight to his argument by incorrectly saying that there are no record stores in Melbourne anymore and suggesting this archaic method of shopping for music was superior. Burke also asserted that Australians are paying less for high definition content than overseas, which is blatantly incorrect. Using The Lego Movie as an example, Australians (by way of iTunes) are paying a AUS$24.99 against US$19.99. Burke did admit that the approach Village Roadshow took in delaying the release date of The Lego Movie was a mistake that the distributors will not repeat again. A bold admission.

It’s worth considering that the perception is that large media conglomerates have always been the gatekeepers of the content we consume, but they’re really relatively recent gatekeepers. TV is a relatively new medium that can still shift and evolve into other forms of TV consumption. Maybe that does mean people will be more interested in cat videos than Game of Thrones. With the current changes we are witnessing, it could well be that we simply need to push aside pre-conceived notions of what televisual entertainment is and can be. Maybe TV through YouTube is the future. Perhaps not. Whatever that future may hold, any changes to current laws need to ensure that Australia’s value system is being maintained and protected beyond the requirements of thes current large media companies.

Ultimately, what was achieved by this panel? Very little. Big media in Australia can now say that they’ve sought public consultation in an open environment. No greater understandings were achieved. As with any issue, the only way to affect any real change is to contact your local MP and stress that this is an important, vote winning/losing issue.

Review: Devil's Playground

The 1976 Fred Schepsi film The Devil’s Playground is a wonderful examination of the so-called sins of the flesh. The film concerns the priests and young boy pupils at a Catholic seminary in the early 1950’s. The boys are beginning to discover their sexuality and are conflicted with the messages of denial that is being instilled within them by the priests. Meanwhile the priests themselves are grappling with years of sexual repression and self-denial.

It’s not the sort of film that lends itself to a TV series, yet Foxtel have commissioned this six-episode series that revisits the young protagonist of the original film, Tom Allen (Simon Burke), as a 48 year-old widower. Now a practicing psychiatrist, Allen has answered the call from the Bishop of Sydney to provide guidance to priests in need of guidance. This coincides with the disappearance of a young boy who is a student at a Catholic boys school.

The premise of the series is sound and lends itself to great drama. While the show doesn’t explore the idea of sins of the flesh in quite the same way as the original film did, Devil’s Playground builds upon the idea of what happens when the sins of the flesh have become too much and an innocent has been hurt. Building the Devils Playground into a drama that explores the background of clergy child abuse hearings was a genius move with the timeline of the Tom Allen character now being of an age where these crimes were exposed to the public. Allen’s age dictated by the age of actor Simon Burke who portrayed Allen in the original film.

imageWhere the series falls apart is by building too much of a personal stake in the story for Tom Allen. It would have been perfectly sound dramatically for him to simply be drawn back into the world of the church with his new job and to explore the ramifications that has on him personally and spiritually. Instead the series also has him knowing the boy who goes missing well, being the son of a neighbour he had an affair with. It’s just too contrived for it to sit right. After all, what are the odds of him being called back to the church just as this boy goes missing? It overloads the conceit of the series too much.

Beyond the plotting problem, the rest of the series is actually very good. If Foxtel can commit themselves to producing great series like this routinely they may actually have grounds upon which to convince subscribers to sign up to their service. This is strong, world-class drama and deserves to be watched.

Toni Collette will serve as a significant draw card for many viewers and John Noble’s presence is equally welcomed, but it is Don Hany that truly makes this series memorable. Hany takes control of the screen from his very first scene and never let’s go. It’s a restrained performance that builds and builds with every scene. The material in Devil’s Playground is pretty strong, but Hany elevates it. There’s a reason that Hany I’d building a very strong fan following and is all on display here.

There’s been considerable discussion recently regarding the dismal state of Australian cinema. Devils Playground proves that these concerns are ill-founded. Just as with overseas TV trends, the best productions have simply moved to television. This is a drama that tells an Australian story in a distinctly Australian way. Devil’s Playground is a show that owes as much to the recent success of Scandi-dramas as it does to the original Fred Schepsi film, delivering a series that feels contemporary and altogether involving.

Devil’s Playground debuts on Foxtel’s Showcase channel Tuesday 9 September 2014 at 8:30pm.

Televised Revolution Podcast – Episode 360

It’s a big week for news at Televised Revolution. The panel discuss:

*FreeviewPlus launches – Did it meet expectation?
*Foxtel radically change their price plans. Is it as radical as claimed?
*Sky News to launch across Asia to replace the Australia Network.
*The Australia Network shutdown.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes(please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).



SBS On Demand – Leading The Pack In Online Catch-Up

With the highly publicised launch of FreeviewPlus last week dominating the conversation regarding free to air TV and catch-up services it’s easy to forget that, while it’s great that there’s now a locally available platform bringing these services together in Australia, it’s still not the primary way that the majority of viewers will access them. At least not in the short-term.

The majority of viewers will continue to watch ABC iView, SBS On Demand, Plus7, Jump in, and Tenplay via their respective apps on compatible smart phones, tablets, smart TV’s, consoles, and other connected devices. It would make sense that, with so many viewers watching on disparate platforms, TV providers would be seeking to ensure that their services could be watched as widely as possible. This, however does not seem to be the case. SBS, with their On Demand app, are the only broadcaster actually endeavouring to ensure that viewers can watch SBS content when they want it and how they want to watch it.

Currently SBS On Demand can be viewed via their website (thus, Windows or Mac), Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Android, iOS, Samsung TV and Bluray players, Sony TV’s, Panasonic TV’s, Humax, Windows 8, Windows Phone (7&8), Kindle Fire, LG TV’s, Hisense TV’s, TCL TV’s, Fetch TV, Telstra T-Box, and now via HbbTV. This represents a total of 20 platforms they’re available on. Their closest rival is not a free-to-air broadcaster, but rather the subscription video on demand service Quickflix. Currently Quickflix is available on 15 different platforms (pre-installed on some, along with an assortment of Android variants).

When considering the widespread availability of apps, US SVOD provider Netflix immediately comes to mind. One of the reasons that Netflix has been so successful in the US has been its widespread availability. It’s difficult to buy a new device and not have a Netflix app available or even pre-installed. That said, a cursory look reveals that they’re only available on 29 different platforms. Considering the resources that Netflix have to invest, it speaks highly that SBS (and Quickflix) have been able to make their apps as widely available as they are.


SBS Manager of Technology, Strategy, and Innovation Trevor Long commented to Televised Revolution, “I think it’s great that we’re comparing SBS to a successful multi-platform company like Quickflix, they’ve been hugely successful in their growth across platforms”. He continues, “We think it’s important for Australians to have access to SBS content on as many platforms as possible, so they can watch our programming whenever they want and on whatever device they choose, we’re really proud of the team that have worked roll out SBS On Demand to as many platforms as we have”.

At the other end of the spectrum you have the Nine Network and their catch-up app Jump In. Currently the app is only available via web browsers, on iOS devices, and now HbbTV.

Making your content widely available does not necessarily yield high traffic consistently.  Worth considering is that SBS has a greater purpose than just delivering bulk viewership. It is, at its core, a targeted broadcaster tasked with providing content that reflects Australia’s multiculturalism. Ensuring widespread availability of content is a core function of SBS and is in line with the SBS charter.

SBS, in performing it’s principal function must contribute to extending the range of Australian television and radio services, and reflect the changing nature of Australian society, by presenting many points of view and using innovative forms of expression.

SBS On Demand is a service that provides a wealth of content that reflects the breadth of content available on their broadcast services. This includes many of the unique world movies that are broadcast throughout the week. With SBS filling such a vital role in a country like Australia, a nation built on immigration, it’s fantastic to see that the online service of SBS is equally committed to ensuring that so many voices can be heard irrespective of how or where viewers wish to consume it.

The Couch – Interview w/ Devil's Playground Star Simon Burke

Foxtel are launching a very unusual TV series on their Showcase channel called “Devil’s Playground”. Serving as a continuation of the 1976 Fred Schepsi film “The Devil’s Playground”, the film continues telling the story of the films boy protagonist who finds himself returning to the church as a man amid a crisis surrounding a missing child.

Dan sits down with the star of the original film, Simon Burke, who has spearheaded the production and stars once again. It’s an illuminating chat about how this unusual series entered production, what it’s like returning to a text so many years later, and what other TV series inspired the return to Devil’s Playground.

Devil’s Playground debuts on Tuesday 09 September, 2014 (8:30pm) on Showcase.

Foxtel Announce New Prices. How do they stack up?

Foxtel today announced a shake-up of their package structure at the ASTRA conference, delivering considerably cheaper prices and driving down the cost of their entry level package. The new pricing comes ahead of fierce competition in the subscription video on demand market, with the Channel Nine/Fairfax StreamCo service and Netflix expected to launch in 2015. Despite the massive drop in pricing, how appealing does Foxtel look with its new packages?

While sports enthusiasts seem relatively happy with the level of access they receive through their Foxtel subscription, others have been less than enthralled with three common complaints about Foxtel:

  • Pricing is too high.
  • HD video costs extra.
  • Too great a time delay between US broadcast times and local.

Each of these complaints have been justified and are especially salient in the current digital marketplace. Those willing to bend the rules and embrace services like Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/etc are able to do so for under $10 a month where they receive a broad range of content along at just $10 per month for less than the cost of an basic package from Foxtel.

The complaints regarding HD video pricing and time-delays still exist for Foxtel, but just how do their new packages stack-up? Foxtel have cut the price of their $49 basic package. Now named the ‘Entertainment’ Pack it will cost just $25. Beyond the price, the most notable change is that upper-tier kids channels Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and Disney are no longer available in the entry level package. Nor are FX or Soho.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 1.13.33 pm

The new Foxtel iQ3

For a decent Foxtel experience, as always, subscribers will need add-on packs. Sports remains unchanged at $25. Entertainment Plus, Docos, and Kids grows out the casual viewing for $10 each. Previously subscribers could access all three for $25, meaning to get all three now is an increase of $5 with fewer channels now available within those packs. Considering the drop in the basic price, however, subscribers still come out ahead. The Movies pack is now just $20, down from $25 per month. Albeit now short the Showcase channel. Showcase, where Foxtel run all their premium TV series is the crown jewel in their scripted TV offering with the marquee HBO, AMC, and other high end TV. Soho and FX are now re-packaged in a premium drama pack for $20 with Showcase, BBC First, 13th Street, and the new Box Sets channel.

Box Sets, which can also be purchased as a stand-alone pack for $10 is a linear stream repeating channel that just shows premium shows as full seasons. So, for example, they may screen the entire first season of Game of Thrones, followed by season three of Big Love, then season five of The Sopranos. Those with an iQ box connected to the Internet will be able to watch the box set shows streamed, on demand. Some shows, however, will be on demand only. Based on the titles (Girls, Looking, Getting On, Angels In America), it seems that these are edgier titles that may offend (close-minded) viewers with delicate sensibilities. This may, however, just be a coincidence.

Box sets is cool in concept, but is ultimately just repurposing old Showcase & Soho content and offering it on demand. It stops being exciting once you’ve watched The Sopranos the second time through.

Foxtel - New Entertainment Pack

Foxtel - New Add On PackagesUnder the last package offer, subscribers could access every Foxtel channel for $124 per month. Of course, Foxtel did offer cheaper packages for those signing up and staying on contracts. The new pricing will give a person access to all of the channels for $120 per month. That’s a whopping $4 cheaper.

And that’s before adding in additional costs for channels in HD or renting an iQ box.

Where the value of the new Foxtel packages lies is for those who are only after some very specific services. For those after premium scripted shows, for example, they can now access Foxtel for the cost of the entry level pack and the Drama pack. That’s $45 per month. Previously they’d be charged $74 per month.

Foxtel can now claim quite easily that it’s never been cheaper to be able to watch Game of Thrones in their cable packages. In the unlikely scenario that a person was paying for access to Foxtel for Game of Thrones alone and not watching anything else, they’d previously have paid $18.75 per episode. Now, it’s $11.25.

While it is now cheaper to watch a show like Game of Thrones, it’s worth considering what is being lost. Gone from the package are the 9 movie channels, which are now in their own package. To regain access to the same channels you had previously, it’ll cost the $45 plus an additional $20 to get the movies. That’s just $9 cheaper than previously offered.

Also, why is the movie package so expensive when Presto offers the same content at just $9.95 per month?

game of thronesUltimately, is Foxtel now cheaper? Not really. Subscribers may now save a few bucks here and there depending on what they’re after. Those wanting every channel will be paying a similar monthly cost.

What the new pricing structure does do is offers greater flexibility for those after very specific content. The barrier of entry to Foxtel is now much lower than it had been.

But, how much more appealing does Foxtel now look?

It comes down to what you want from the content you’re after. Does it compare to Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime? One can still subscribe to all of those services for just a few bucks more than the entry level Foxtel package costs. And that content is all on demand (meaning there’s no need for a PVR like the iQ box) and in high definition. And those services will deliver a wider range of content.

The new Foxtel flexibility is great, but they are missing a crucial wow factor to draw in new subscribers. If they were to provide HD channels without the need for an additional $10 pack and were to provide iQ3 as the standard receiver for all Foxtel installations, that would do it. With those additions, a Foxtel subscription can be an amazing service. But without, Foxtel is left to compete with the grey subscribers from overseas that are much more appealing to younger, digitally savvy viewers.

Foxtel is in a difficult position in that it costs money to provide an iQ3 for everyone at no cost. Plus they need to license a heck of a lot more content than Netflix does. But, from a customers perspective, it’s just not providing the value proposition still. The experience of using these providers from overseas is still superior.

It’s like buying a refrigerator. You may see that the more expensive unit runs a little better and has a few more bells and whistles, but ultimately it’s still just a refrigerator.

Besides, the cheaper version has a better ice-cube tray.

Televised Revolution Podcast – FreeviewPlus Launch (Ep 359)

On this special edition Televised Revolution podcast Dan Barrett reports live from the FreeviewPlus launch in Sydney on Tuesday 02 September 2014. He interviews the General Manager of Freeview Liz Ross about the development and future of the FreeviewPlus platform, Mumbrella reporter Nic Christensen about how the industry is responding to the catch-up service, and to Appliance Retailer Managing Editor Patrick Avenell about the hardware itself and what FreeviewPlus is offering viewers moving forward.

For a full analysis of FreeviewPlus, please read this article at Televised Revolution.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes(please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).

Review: FreeviewPlus – Is It Worth It?

Australian TV consortium Freeview last night officially launched their new product FreeviewPlus. Built to serve as the future of Australian broadcast television, FreeviewPlus employs a technology called HbbTV to provide a hybrid of broadcast and streamed TV content. This means that the viewer can watch a linear broadcast TV channel the same way they have for years, but can also seamlessly click a button and get access to prior episodes of the show, or similar programs just by clicking a button on their remote. 

FreeviewPlus will be available on a number of new TV sets sold in Australia, with cheaper set-top boxes available from October. Is FreeviewPlus worth the upgrade, even with to just a relatively inexpensive set-top box? As always, it depends what you are looking for from TV.

The Good
An absolute strength of the FreeviewPlus platform is that Australia finally has a cost effective way to watch catch-up TV services on their actual TV screens.

Until now viewers have been reliant on pricey connected TV’s, video game consoles, and PC’s connected to a TV in order to watch their shows on demand. Not everyone wants to pay for a subscription service like Netflix, Quickflix, StreamCo, etc, but a $100 set-top box that will provide all the free-to-air shows that a viewer is familiar with is an appealing proposition for many viewers. This delivers that experience, while also providing a few neat additional tricks. Sports viewers will likely be the first to find value in FreeviewPlus. It will undoubtedly be a focal point of FreeviewPlus efforts moving forward.

FreeviewPlus provides broadcasters the opportunity to provide multiple content streams to supplement the primary sports content. These streams may involve reports/interviews from around the field as the game is taking place, analysis of the game and previous similar games, along with statistical analysis of the game results.

For the broadcasters, FreeviewPlus also provides opportunities beyond the existing content found across their digital multi-channels. No longer is, for example, Channel 7 bound by just their primary channel along with 7Two and 7Mate, but rather they could add a large number of additional linear content channels streamed online, along with possible subscription video on demand (SVOD) content. FreeviewPlus provides the flexibility to add and build to content offerings in ways that the current broadcast systems will not allow.

The Bad
FreeviewPlus doesn’t offer much beyond just catch-up TV. Yes, this is the most fully-functioned, feature-rich catch-up TV service to date, but it is also restricted by the existing catch-up services: Time delays before content is made available, low-resolution content streams, and a general lack of content.

On this final point: It’s all very good and well to discuss FreeviewPlus as an alternative to Foxtel, Netflix, etc, but the simple fact is that broadcast TV has changed considerably within the past decade and a half and it’s now at the point where networks rely far less on imported and locally produced scripted series. The result is a lot more reality and event shows. This works just fine for broadcast, but perhaps less so for on demand viewing. Furthermore, for those looking for content beyond reality and event shows, the range of content is severely diminished.

Red Button

Red Button screenshot courtesy of Mumbrella.com.au

Providers outside of the free-to-air broadcasters will not have their content integrated. The only way Quickflix, for example, can find their way onto the platform would be for Channel Nine, for example, to run the service amid their services. Quickflix can not just buy their way onto the platform.

TV discovery functionality isn’t great. Once you’ve watched an episode of a show, the FreeviewPlus service may then recommend three other shows you may be interested These are based strictly on categories and only reflect programs that air on the one network. Watching The Simpsons on Tenplay will not get you a recommendation to watch Seven’s Family Guy.

As with previous Freeview-branded hardware, PVR maunfacturers will be restricted in some of the functionality their machines will provide. Ad-skipping functionality will not be permitted, nor will fast forwarding over 30x speeds. Your FreeviewPlus experience will be heavily controlled by their requirements.

The Ugly
Ultimately, HbbTV is a short-term fix. Right now, FreeviewPlus offers content and an ease of access that is desperately needed by viewers. For older viewers and those who may be less technologically inclined, FreeviewPlus represents a very easy way to access content. For those who still consider broadcast TV to be a satisfying experience, this really does enrich that product offering.

But 18 months from now?

Viewer consumption habits are shifting. Locking third party providers out of offering services like Netflix on the platform means that many consumers will be looking to other platforms to integrate into their viewing will find themselves less and less reliant on the FreeviewPlus platform. With third party companies like Google and Apple almost certainly set to try and control the real estate of the television screen (the reconceptualised Android TV by Google should start seeing release within months), it’s likely to drive an ever increasing number of viewers to their respective eco-systems. What would keep a viewer using FreeviewPlus over, say Android TV – a new platform that will use algorithms to find you content tailored to your viewing interests, will have content drawn from a wider pool of providers, and offers cool, voice controlled search functionality.

FreeviewPlus makes sense today with the market still largely controlled by broadcast service players (Ten, Nine, Seven, ABC, and SBS). The TV market could be controlled by a small number of players in the past due to a considerable barrier of entry – broadcast licenses. Now that online content delivery is maturing we are seeing more companies express interest in delivering TV services. But as more players enter the market in a substantiative way, FreeviewPlus will begin to feel like a small, gated community.

Also, will networks act responsibly with FreeviewPlus? Consider the digital radio roll-out in Australia. Commercial radio broadcasters didn’t want to develop channel alternatives that would diminish the listenership on their primary radio services, so any new stations have been automated music playlists with limited resources put into them. Furthermore, many of these stations are heavily branded through marketing deals to the point where Coles radio is now an actual channel you can listen to on your personal radio. No longer is Coles music confined to the supermarket aisles.

Will the networks treat the FreeviewPlus platform better than their radio counterparts have behaved? Considering how many infomercial channels each of the broadcasters run now, with informercial content dominating multiple channels during low rating time-slots, it seems inevitable that FreeviewPlus will see a similar fate. Again, there’s little incentive to create even more competition for the networks primary content offering as it’ll diminish their audience-base too much. Unlike digital radio and the existing broadcast model, FreeviewPlus provides an eco-system that will allow the networks that control the content to provide an endless number of channels…and an endless number of branded content opportunities.

* * * *

FreeviewPlus does represent a major shift in the Australian television market. And for many broadcast viewers who embrace the platform, it will offer a much richer viewing experience. For the first time in Freeviews history, they have released a product that does impress and does offer a value proposition to the viewer that exceeds anything else in the market.

TV, however, is fragmenting and offering an endless number of viewing alternatives and experiences. While FreeviewPlus does offer the optimum broadcast TV experience, many consumers are seeking their entertainment elsewhere. FreeviewPlus does little to persuade those viewers to stay within the FreeviewPlus eco-system with its limited number of content providers.

Viewers who are not satisfied by the existing content on Australian broadcast TV and its catch-up services will find no additional value with FreeviewPlus. At least not as it stands at launch.

FreeviewPlus is a world-class product. But with any product, it’s the consumer who will ultimately determine whether it provides them any value.

Catch-Up TV Stirrings

The launch today of an HbbTV service in Australia, branded ‘FreeviewPlus’, is a strong reminder of the current difficulties of watching catch-up TV in Australia. Regardless of the many platforms that offer the catch-up TV services, there is still  difficulty for many in doing the one thing the majority of viewers would actually like to do – catch up on television shows on their actual televisions. Catch-up TV has simply had too many barriers of entry.

Smart TV’s are an option, but one that has a number of hurdles. Firstly, buying a new TV is expensive. Secondly, a viewer must have purchased a Smart TV that carries the majority of these services with not every TV born equal in this regard. Different manufacturers have different deals with the networks. Additionally, a challenge is that the TV’s need to actually have Internet capability. With many manufacturers charging extra for components to deliver an internet connection to one’s newly purchased smart TV when the products initially started being sold in Australia, there are many Smart TV’s still around that don’t connect online. And for those Smart TV’s that do, the user interface is often so bad it makes watching catch-up services a terrible nuisance.

Australian networks have been particularly good about getting catch-up services onto video game consoles. It makes sense as the PS3/PS4, Xbox 360/Xbox One, is hooked up to the televisions and will usually have an internet connection connected to the home network. Just this week we’ve seen Yahoo7 announce that the Plus7 app will now be available on the Xbox One.  This is great news for those with a video game console, but for those that aren’t console gamers, buying a new gaming console just to be able to stream catch-up TV is excessive.

Sure, all of these catch-up apps are available on most major smart phones or tablets, but it’s still not the same as being able to watch the programs on the TV screen in a lounge-room. Which isn’t to say that these apps don’t have a strong userbase. The below infographic (courtesy of Ten), reveals that there are a large number of people using these catch-up apps to see the shows they’ve missed out on. Obviously, this infographic needs to be considered in the proper context as promotion for Ten and that some of the facts are skewed in their favour. 18.1 million views on Masterchef Australia, for example, aren’t unique views. Nor do they represent a viewer watching a full episode of Masterchef on the site.



What is interesting on the infographic is that Tenplay are registering 1.4 million unique views, with Jump In a close second with 1.1 million. With Masterchef airing on Ten and The Block doing well on Nine, it makes sense that both of their catch-up services would see similar user increase during that month. It is noteworthy that despite significantly lower ratings for their broadcast service, SBS do attract an online viewership that’s not dissimilar to Plus7’s service. Despite Seven performing significantly stronger with their broadcast service.

While Televised Revolution has been critical of the value of HbbTV and FreeviewPlus in the past, the one major benefit from the launch of FreeviewPlus today is that it’ll open the market to set-top boxes (reportedly due in July) that will provide relatively cheap access to connecting catch-up services to Australians TV’s. Greater access to the TV we want to watch when we want to watch it is a significant plus for viewers and broadcasters alike.

Televised Revolution Podcast: "TV Sex" (Ep 358)

Let’s talk about sex, baby. Or more specifically, let’s talk about the way sex is depicted on television. More often than not depictions of sex is often restricted by classification and corporate interests, meaning we rarely ever see sex depicted realistically on TV. The panel this week go deep in their discussion of sex on TV.

The panel also discuss the TV news of the week. Major stories include:

  • HbbTV to launch this week in Australia.
  • Ten embrace the Twitter TV ratings system.
  • Greatest American Hero is coming back to TV.
  • The Tick is so mighty cancellation can’t keep him down.
  • Netflix acquire The Blacklist at an astronomical price.
  • Netflix announce their first French production.
  • The integrated Perth newsroom.

At Televised Revolution, we look forward to receiving your mail and check us out on the Twitter. You can also find the podcast on iTunes (please leave us a review, it helps people find the show).