Goodbye Freeview Plus, hello Freeview on Demand. Tara Ward takes the new Freeview platform for a test drive.
A deep library of diverse local television is now available in one place with the launch of its new on-demand service, which takes the content of New Zealand’s free-to-air TV channels and streamlines it into a single, easy to use catalogue. Freeview on Demand joins our channels together in holy TV matrimony, creating an on-demand union that promises to love and comfort us in good times and bad, through Hilary Barry highs and Mark Richardson lows, forever and ever amen.
After viewers found the Freeview Plus service slow and confusing, it was essential to upgrade the system to keep up with the technological developments of modern TV, and the viewing patterns of the 2018 audience. We fickle telly watchers want fast, simple access to our favourite shows whenever is most convenient, and Freeview CEO Jason Foden reckons Freeview on Demand will do exactly this. “It means getting access to the content that people love, really easily,” he says.
Freeview on Demand puts all our favourite shows into one happy place, so Three’s The Block NZ sits beside TVNZ’s Survivor NZ. Breakfast is next to Kawekōrero and The Project, while A Place to Call Home rubs shoulders with WWE Smackdown. Gone are the bleak days of using individual channel apps to watch television and movies. Whatever show you want to catch up on, whatever channel it screens on, Freeview on Demand has it.
It’s this creation of a single home of shows that Foden is most proud of, a feature not offered by Freeview providers in Australia and Britain. Foden calls it the “Holy Grail” of television, where broadcasters work together to create a viewing experience that prioritises shared content over specific channels. “Individually, the broadcasters do a great job. But the strength of all the catalogues together is way more compelling,” he says.
The new platform is a real chance to celebrate the quality of free-to-air content in New Zealand, and the depth of the catalogue provides a surprising insight into just how much great TV we make. Modernising Freeview means taking on-demand television beyond catch-up TV and showing people how good our local content is. “People are changing their viewing habits, but they continue to keep free-to-air TV in the mix. We have to present the best mix of service and content for viewers, so they can make the choice.”
But the new platform isn’t just an on-demand service. Foden hopes Freeview’s TV Guide feature will encourage viewers to discover gems outside of the mainstream channels, like those of Indian entertainment channel APNA, Chinese language channel Panda TV and news network Al Jazeera.
“Freeview’s in this unique position of making a multitude of content available,” he says. “We try to meet the needs of all New Zealanders by surfacing all that great content and making sure people know it’s there.”
What of Freeview’s plans for the future? Foden says the service will continue to improve and develop, without leaving their traditional “heartland” viewers behind. “We’ve got to appeal to a mass market,” he says. And he believes it’s essential that Freeview sets the standard as televisions move towards supporting a variety of transmission types.
So, what’s Freeview On Demand like to use? I turned on the old gogglebox to find out.
Two simple clicks on my remote takes me to the Freeview On Demand app, where I can choose a show or movie by scrolling through categories or searching by title or channel. Purely for research purposes, I choose the ‘reality’ category and take a deep dive into the equally magical/terrifying Love Island. Selecting the latest episode is quick and easy, and there’s a ‘More Like This’ scrollbar that suggests similar shows I might enjoy.
Watch me as I fall down a Bromans rabbit hole, see you in the next empire.
There’s a lot to like about Freeview On Demand. Browsing the different genres (comedy, drama, kids, local, reality, movies, news and factual, and sport) is a breeze, and a great way to discover new shows. It’s a treat not to switch in and out of channel apps to find your next binge-watch, which means I can swap from Westside to Finding Aroha to Wellington Paranormal without breaking a sweat. There’s a huge variety of programmes to choose from, and it’s fantastic to see so much New Zealand content in one place.
Best of all, it’s free. Free as the samba breeze flowing through Suzy Cato’s golden locks during an encore viewing of Dancing with the Stars NZ.
This content was brought to you by Freeview.
Freeview On Demand is supported on new Smart TVs, connected boxes and recorders. Call 0800 FREEVIEW or visit freeviewnz.tv for more information.
Subscribe to The Bulletin to get all the day’s key news stories in five minutes – delivered every weekday at 7.30am.