Slideshow

Video on demand: Australian catch-up TV services

We look at Fixplay, PLUS7, iView as well as video-on-demand offerings from Channel Ten and SBS

  • Selecting an episode to watch defaults to full-screen viewing. While there is no high-definition option, video quality from ABC iView is the best of the catch-up television services currently available. ABC iView uses Adobe's Flash platform.

  • Clicking on a series takes users to a list of available episodes. Don't rely on Fixplay to watch an entire series, though — most shows have only a limited number of episodes available, and they only stay online for a while after each one is broadcast on the free-to-air Channel Nine television network. Advertisement breaks are distributed throughout the show, with most 10 seconds in length.

  • While Ten doesn't have a dedicated Web site like Fixplay or iView, the [[xref: http://ten.com.au/watch-tv-episodes-online.htm|Full Episodes and Video page]] of the [[xref:http://www.ten.com.au|ten.com.au site]] has a list of popular shows to choose from. A high quality option is available but didn't noticeably change video playback during our tests.

  • The standard view when watching an episode on Fixplay is a windowed box with pop-up video controls. The service uses Microsoft's Silverlight framework rather than Adobe Flash and offers similar quality video to YouTube. A high-definition streaming video option is not available, but video does not display any blockiness or low-resolution artefacts.

  • While video defaults to a windowed viewing option it is easy to select full-screen mode with simple playback controls. Video quality is acceptable but not as clean and detailed as ABC's iView in our testing.

  • Episodes of several shows are available on PLUS7 for almost a month, while others last only a fortnight or less. Popular shows have the most recent three episodes available.

  • Yahoo!7's [[xref: http://au.tv.yahoo.com/plus7/|PLUS7]] video service was launched in late January and offers a range of content from the Channel Seven television network and licensed international content.

  • We found Ten's video to be the poorest quality of the catch-up TV services. You can still see all the action, but pixelation is noticeable.

  • [[artnid:270586|Some ISPs offer unmetered access to iView]], and it will [[artnid:342710|soon be available on Sony televisions and Blu-ray disc players]]. Most shows on the catch-up video service are available for a fortnight after being broadcast.

  • A playlist option allows the queuing of multiple videos — this feature comes in handy because Ten splits each television episode into several segments and inserts ads between them.

  • nineMSN's [[xref:http://www.fixplay.ninemsn.com.au|Fixplay]] is the [[artnid:342704|latest catch-up television service]] to be launched by Australia's free-to-air television networks. Running through a Web browser, it offers dozens of episodes from shows such as Gossip Girl and Underbelly as well as international content from the BBC.

  • Public broadcaster [[xref: http://www.sbs.com.au/|SBS]] is the least advanced of the free-to-air networks when it comes to streaming video on demand. Its main Web site has a link to watch episodes of SBS programs.

  • SBS's Web browser player opens in a pop-up window with a Flash interface. You probably won't find any of the content here being offered by other Australian networks — it is generally internationally sourced with a large proportion of foreign-language video. Bandwidth requirements can be lowered if necessary and a full-screen option is available.

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  • Channel Ten uses a dedicated micro-site for its MasterChef episode listings. It uses the same Flash platform as the ten.com.au Full Episodes and Video library, but has cooking-themed ads in between program segments.

  • ABC's [[xref: http://www.abc.net.au/iview|iView]] [[artnid:255462|video-on-demand Web site]] has a huge library of local and international video content to choose from. It's constantly expanding and [[xref:http://www.pcworld.idg.com.au/mediareleases/10443/doctor-who-lands-abc-iview-fans/|even premiered the new season of Doctor Who before it was broadcast on television]].

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