Online TV streaming has been around for years in New Zealand. In fact we were one of the pioneers in Australasia when TVNZ fist launched their TVNZ OnDemand platform in March 2007. At first, the number of shows online was very limited. It was mainly Kiwi shows, a few Hollywood programmes, as well as the news and some historical clips from the TVNZ archive. Back then, you could only watch it on the computer - no smartphone or tablet to watch on the go.
Things have changed dramatically since then, with TVNZ OnDemand available on more platforms than ever, hosting more hours of programming than you could watch in a lifetime including a number of shows that are viewed online before they are shown on TV.
Eight years later and the state broadcaster is about to revamp the streaming platform with a host of new features. I was lucky enough to have a sneak peek at it in the last week, and it is a real step up from their current site.
The design and engine behind the platform is very powerful. Without boring you about the technical specs, it looks slick and is very fast. It puts other free and paid streaming providers to shame. General Manager of On Demand at TVNZ Jason Foden says it's effectively the same platform as Lightbox, but the Spark-led venture went with the basic package.
Besides the new design and interface, the main key difference is that TVNZ OD will now require a log in (you can pre-register now). Yes, I know what you're thinking - another password to remember, another login to set up. It's a very simple registration process , but sadly you can't sign up with Facebook or your Google account at this stage. However there's good reason to be registered. Why?
In a New Zealand first, they have a new feature called Pick Up & Play. It will allow you to start watching a programme on one device and if you stop it will pick up right where you left off on any other device you're logged into. It's a welcome relief for those of us who have watch a programme on the bus using our phones, then get home and spending time scrolling through to figure out where we left off. It even puts the episode you were watching on your homepage so you can't lose it.
The login also allows you to make your own personal watchlists so you have episodes ready to go at the click of a button. You can also mark your favourite shows so they appear in your homepage and TVNZ will suggest other shows you may like based on that selection.
The other thing we've seen TVNZ do more of over the last few years in premiering content online before it is shown on TV and bringing episodes to NZ hours after they're shown in the US. They need to be doing that otherwise people who go off and find other ways to access their favourite shows, and it's good to see this happening more and more.
Mr Foden says their key focus is recency and this is why they're not intending TVNZ OD to compete with the likes of Netflix and Lightbox. So while they may not be able to have the complete archive of a series like other streaming providers, they will get the shows online as soon as possible - whether that's within hours after it's aired in the US, or the moment it's aired on TV here.
Yes the shows will only be there for a matter of weeks (because of the rights they'll have for the shows), and Mr Foden says that if you're wanting to watch it now then you can. But he says if you want to binge watch it then you'll have to possibly wait months for other streaming providers to put up the whole season. However he says there are scenarios where they will get the rights to put up whole seasons at a time, just like they did with Orange is the new Black - they were going to air season two on TV so to get everyone up to speed they put the full season one online.
Rights is also a big issue, as sometimes there will be shows they can't get the online rights for such as the Golden Globe winning series Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
TVNZ OD will also be available on all their current platforms including iPhone, iPad, Android, Samsung TV and of course PC and Mac. They're also looking at bringing back the PS3 and PS4 app, and are continuing to look at other devices to be available on. Will it work with Chromecast? They haven't tested that and aren't committing to say yes or now, but my initial look at it suggests it will work.
The big question though is will it continue to be free? Jason Foden says it won't be a paid subscription service, but of course there will be ads at the start and during programmes. They're not going to force you to watch a run of extremely long ads either, and they've committed to have a maximum two ads in an ad break during programmes on-demand.
Overall I'm really optimistic about their offering. The new features are great and the wide range of devices it is available on, including the living room TV, is great. I think as long as they keep the content fresh and get programmes people want to watch within hours of them being aired overseas, then they'll be on to a winner.
- Login required
- New features including Pick up and Play
- More shows premiered online and "Express from the US"
- Completely free, ad supported
- Available on Android, iOS, Samsung Smart TV, PC and Mac
- Launches in the coming weeks (precise date unconfirmed)
- Pre-registration open now