Freeview launching ondemand channel - Quickflix first up; will TVNZ & Mediaworks follow?

Here's a reason to hope financially-struggling Quickflix survives into the new year: Freeview is launching an ondemand channel in early 2013, and the internet streaming service is the first to support it.

Freeview general manager Sam Irvine told NBR ONLINE he hopes Freeview shareholders TVNZ and Mediaworks (TV3 and Four) will support the new ondemand channel.

Let's hope so.

Back in May, Freeview demo'd its ondemand technology for NBR.

We've all watched TVNZ and Mediaworks ondemand content on a PC or tablet, and a few with wi-fi smarts can fling it to their TV.

But Freeview's ondemand channel takes all the geekiness away. It appears as just another Freeview channel - even though after you select content (using your regular remote), you're handed off from the broadcast signal to broadband behind the scenes.

It supports both free and pay-per-view content, and if you've got a compatible Freeview setup, you can checkout some preview content on channel 600.

Irvine says there are roughly 500,000 Freeview recorders and Freeview-compatible TVs that support the MHEG-5 technology used for the ondemand channel. Not every Freeview recorder supports the technology. TiVo doesn't, for example.

TVNZ torn in many directions
TVNZ recently showed NBR new iPad, iPhone and Android ondemand apps, which are coming in the new year, along with support for accessing TVNZ ondemand directly from a new model of Samsung smart TV.

It all looks very slick, but unfortunately, the new TVNZ ondemand push is based around a rival technology to MHEG-5.

That doesn't preclude it supporting Freeview's new channel in future, but TVNZ GM of digital media Tom Cotter told NBR that in a constrained resource environment, he had to pick his projects. MHEG-5 had yet to be proven in the market and go mainstream, he said (for its part, Freeivew points out that Connect TV has had an MHEG-5 based service running in the UK since February.

And while TVNZ's push to support iPad, iPhone and Android is commendable, Freeview's Irvine points out there has also been ondemand movement in the other direction with a 25% increase in the number who watch BBC iPlayer content on theri TV over the past year.

TVNZ's complicated digital life also sees it supporting the new igloo service, which includes ondemand content.

And, for those still watching, TiVo's ondemand content channel, Caspa, is still operational.

Build it, and they will come (hopefully)
As things stand, Freeview's ondemand launch is not shaking up to be industry-shaking.

Quickflix' content is too threadbare, and Sky TV's lock on local rights means it can't offer its best shows (from investor HBO) on this side of the Tasman.

But at least Quickflix is giving Freeview the opportunity to actually launch its ondemand channel.

And once it's there, in 500,000 or so households and looking and working all user-friendly, TVNZ and Mediaworks will be more likely to support it.

Who knows, maybe Sky TV could throw in some Prime shows, too, if regulators or politicians lean on it a little ...

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