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Eye on Demand | November 17, 2017

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TenPlay Review

TenPlay Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
6
User Interface
6
Content on Offer
5.5
Device Availability
4
iOS
4
5.1

Colourful

It wasn’t that long ago that Australia’s commercial television network’s catch-up services lagged phenomenally behind the two public competitors,  ABC’s iView & SBS on Demand, but it looks as though the race is finally on. All three of Australia’s largest commercial networks have relaunched their catch-up services offering new platforms and easier to use websites.

Network 10 was generally considered Australia’s third commercial network after Seven & Nine, arriving onto the scene after the other two, and until 2012 at least, where it began to loose ground to the ABC, was third in the ratings. Still, that is no reason why not to review it first here.

There was a time when Australia’s commercial networks made a great deal of their own content, and although this certainly continues today, there is no doubt whatsoever that Network Ten focuses first on American or British imports before creating their own productions. This doesn’t mean there isn’t anything of Australian origin, but finding what there is amongst foreign imports is not always terribly easy. Sadly it is more likely to be found in the Lifestyle, Reality, Light Entertainment or News categories rather than in Drama.

Regarding news and current affairs, in most cases there are no full bulletins, which is a pity since the ABC and SBS offer this, but there is a live feed when available. Unfortunately, there is no clear indication of when the next live broadcast occurs, which is something that could be improved upon.

Quality SDVideo quality is average, tested at just a tad under SD quality between 1200kbps* & 1400kbps*. To be fair, this is pretty good for an Australian FTA catch-up service, being almost double the market leader and more established ABC iView, but of course a far cry from similar services outside the country. Considering many Australian ISP’s heavily throttle video playback and have strict data caps, these lower rates are to be expected, but it is hoped that this will improve in the near future.

TenPlay suggests users create an account and log in. There are good reasons to do this, mainly relating to the service’s cross-platform support, but it is not necessary to simply watch content. Once an account was created, I tested the cross-platform and resume features by stopping a programme I was playing on a Windows laptop and resumed it where I left off on a Mac. The programme was easily found in the My TV section, but I would have liked to see some sort of hint that the programme was already started and where my last position was (see SBS on Demand for a good example). Still, it did resume at the correct spot.

Logging in also allows the user to set up tracking and playlists. A playlist is effectively a watchlist, where you can highlight shows you want to watch later. Tracking takes this to another level, automatically adding the show to your playlist but also notifying you when new episodes arrive and before older ones drop off the edge.

TenPlay banner

 

  • TenPlay Website

    Network Ten’s catch-up website TenPlay, is so far removed from their previous incarnation that it would be unrecognizable. Hats off to their web designers as their latest layout is actually a pleasure to use and navigate.

    Large, clean and clutter-free pages keep the same basic layout, but change enough in character for each show to keep it interesting. External advertising is kept to a minimum once you have left the home or news page, which is greatly appreciated, and there are only short commercial breaks at the beginning of each show, although they increase in duration during playback.

    One thing to keep in mind, on my tested computer I only had 100% success with the Chrome browser. Firefox also worked, but would not allow full-screen viewing, and Safari failed entirely to play content. I’m not exactly sure why this is happening, but at least it works fine in Chrome.

    The top of the screen offers filtering by a basic set of genre options, as well as by channel, and selecting one of these will bring up a list of available shows – although annoyingly not all of the shows actually offers full episodes to watch. I really wish this would be clearer, or even omit shows entirely if they don’t have full episodes.

    When full-length content is available, all episodes are clearly shown, though in two different layouts depending on the programme which is a little inconsistent. That said, it is quick and easy to begin playback with video quality a very pleasant 1200kbps* average on my last series of tests.

    One rather confusing error message that sometimes pops up when trying to play back brand new material is “This video is not available in this geography at this time”. This doesn’t seem to have any relationship to IP addresses external from Australia, but could in fact just be some internal licensing blackout due to the recent airing of the programme. The episodes almost always seem to become available after a short period of time.

    Kudo’s go to Network Ten for allowing live streams for some of their current affair shows. When I was around at the broadcasting time, this worked quite well. It would be nice though to have a countdown until the next live stream starts. It is a little hard to keep track of when different programmes are actually on TV, especially when we get so used to watching catch-up rather than live. Unfortunately, news related content rarely has the last full bulletins to watch, resorting only to clips which is really annoying.

    However, a nice touch is the full TV guide, which not only includes all three of Network Ten’s channels, but also the remaining free or Foxtel ones as well. It is even possible to go back in time and play a show directly from the TV guide itself, as long as of course it is from the Ten Network of channels and supported by catch-up.

    Platform Pros:

    • Good quality SD video streams averaging at 1200kbps*
    • Very pleasant and colourful layout that is not cluttered by ads.
    • Full-screen or two window size options.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • Watchlist and resume feature (when logged in)
    • Live News streams when available.
    • TV Guide for all FTA channels and Foxtel.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams.
    • Not all shows highlighted are actually available with catch-up episodes.
    • No countdown for live news streams.

    (Accessing TenPlay outside of Australia may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

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  • Best Choice StampAlong with SBS and Plus7, tenplay have the privileged spot of being one of the only three FTA Australian catch-up television services on the Xbox One, with the remaining two nowhere in sight. Being first on the block is a good sign for tenplay, and hopefully this means a wider roll-out to other platforms in the near future.

    And speaking of sight, it’s a rather pleasant one at that. Bright, clear and making good use of the Xbox One’s horizontal, tile based UI.

    The home page offers the usual buttons, Search, Latest, TV Shows, Most Popular and News, with some, such as TV Shows, offering the ability to filter down by Genre or A-Z. Hidden at the far right is the Expires Soon page, which I always find quite useful.

    Commercials are played before and during the programme, which is understandable considering the service is financed from advertising, but ads before short clips that sometimes last longer than the clips themselves can be a little excessive.

    Video quality is dynamic depending on your bandwidth, with the best quality stream a tad shy of standard definition at 1420kbps*. If your internet is up to the task, you should be able to maintain this, but when it heads south, picture quality can dramatically suffer, not only with pixelated video, but also jerky movement as well.

    What’s really cool about the Xbox One as a streaming platform are the options available to control your apps, and regarding tenplay there are no less than five ways to control the catch-up service, each with their own preferences and advocates.

    Voice: One of the coolest ways to control tenplay is by voice, and this can be started directly from the Xbox One’s Home screen. In fact, if you pin your favourite shows to the Xbox Home screen, you can begin playback of an episode with only one basic command, e.g. “Xbox go to The Project”. It is possible to pause, continue, stop, and browse television shows purely by voice, and it even works with fast forward and rewinding, but good luck for keyword searches. Voice control though can be finicky. When it works, it does so with grace and style and really makes it seem like the future is here to stay. But it is almost guaranteed to fail as soon as you try to demonstrate it to someone else, especially those critical of tech.

    Motion Control: Alternatively, you can wave your hands around in a ridiculous fashion. I haven’t been a big fan of the Xbox One’s motion control, but I have to admit it is slowly getting better. Then again it may just be my imagination, but I have to admit the Xbox One hasn’t confused my foot resting on the coffee table, for my open palm in quite a while. Don’t be surprised if you pull a bit of hair out with this one method, but if it works for you then great.

    Xbox Controller: Probably the easiest way to control tenplay is via the Xbox controller. The only real downsides here are the awkward shape for such a simple operation, and the problem it will go into hibernation after a while – still, if you urgently need to pause, you can always yell it out. Otherwise the controller is a pleasant way to navigate and control tenplay, and at least for navigating, one of the best. Here is a quick guide to the controller for tenplay:

    TenPlay Controller

    SmartGlass: The Xbox’s SmartGlass concept has so much enormous potential, almost all of which has been completely wasted on this particular app. What could have been a near perfect touch screen remote, has been reduced to pretty much nothing more that the worst designed controller you could possibly think of. There is no second-screen information, no details of the currently playing show, or any real use of social media. In fact, SmartGlass is so poorly implemented here, the one place where it would work better than anywhere else – the search function – doesn’t even bring up a proper keyboard.

    Programmable remote: If all else fails, you can always resort to a programmable remote such as the Logitech Harmony, and return back to the retro pleasures of horizontal sofa laziness. Once set up, it will work a dream, but be prepared for a lot of hair-loss during configurations, especially if you are competing with voice control to also switch on your Xbox and TV

    All this magnificence does unfortunately come at a price. Not only is the Xbox an AU$599,99 (£425) set-top-box, Microsoft have the unmitigated audacity to charge users a yearly subscription fee in order to access a freely available catch-up service. It’s a bit like if Sony, Samsung or some other television manufacturer began charging a fee to access your free-to-air channels. Just to exemplify how embarrassed even Microsoft are of their actions, they force you to create an account and sign in before they will even tell you how much they’ll charge you. So, to save you the trouble, expect to pay around AU$79,95 (£39,99) per year. Thankfully this Gold subscription will provide you with access to other services as well, including SBS On Demand.

    Platform Pros:

    • Can pin favourite shows to the home screen.
    • Expires Soon page.
    • Fast, clean and easy to use UI.
    • FFW & REW between 2x and 128x speed.

    Platform Cons:

    • No thumbnails for FFW/REW.
    • SmartGlass as good as useless, without even a keyboard.
    • No Resume feature.
    • No favourites outside of pinning to the home screen.
    • No way to log in.
    • No cross-platform support.
    • SD or lower only.

    (Accessing tenplay outside of Australia may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18153″]

  • The following app has been tested on a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 running KitKat 4.4. Due to the enormous fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, features, availability and UI may vary dramatically between devices.

    If going mobile is what you’re after with tenplay, then the aforementioned streaming service provides a very solid Android app. The home-screen (on the tablet version at least) can only be used horizontally, but this way it makes maximum use of screen real-estate to show off all their highlighted content.

    Tapping the hamburger brings up a pile of options including Browse TV, for all the available shows, News, Sports, Last Viewed, Playlist and My Shows. The TV Guide is only useful when in Australia along with access to a real television attached to an antenna, since this app doesn’t actually lead to any live streams. In fact, unlike the BBC iPlayer app, the TV Guide won’t even lead to available catch-up content. That said, you can still set reminders, which some people may find useful.

    The News & Sports sections, as interesting as they sound, just led to clips – at least whenever I browsed through them. Unfortunately, tenplay are not too keen to provide their full news bulletins here, but the Browse TV section does offer complete episodes and all are available for free (albeit sponsored by commercials).

    The real gem here is how easy it is to add shows to your own Watchlist, although it is a bit confusing how tenplay splits this between their Playlist & My Shows (the + symbol ads the show to your Playlist, and the heart ads it to My Shows with a reminder). Couple this with an excellent Resume feature, allowing continuation of a show where you left off, and Cross-Platform support, you have more features here than what many other larger networks around the world offer.

    Video quality is surprisingly good for the 1360kbps* average stream that I tested, although the small size provided by mobile screens may have something to do with this. In any rate, despite some minor artifacts that were present, video quality was good enough to enjoy without too much criticism, so long as you don’t try to force it through a real TV.

    Platform Pros:

    • Pleasant UI.
    • Good enough video quality for mobile screens.
    • Can be used via mobile data.
    • Resume function.
    • Cross-Platform function.
    • Watchlist and Favourites (via Playlist & My Shows)
    • Alerts & TV guide.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • No episode management.
    • No live streams.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Only horizontal usage (on tablet).

    (Accessing tenplay outside of Australia may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”16997″]

  • Note: Due to technical reasons, the iOS review has not been completed. What I can say is that the iOS app functions quite well, but with no proper AirPlay support. The AirPlay button is present but stops playback when invoked. TenPlay say that AirPlay will arrive shortly. Watch this space for an update and full iOS review in the near future.

    Keep Calm iPad

  • It’s great to finally see some action in the catch-up world for Australia’s commercial television networks. For far too long they have languished behind not only the ABC and relatively small SBS, but behind the global average. TenPlay was one of the first of the big three to relaunch their previously dismal attempt at IPTV and what we see now is a fantastic leap in the right direction.

    Don’t get me wrong. TenPlay is still so far behind the global FTA leader, the BBC iPlayer it may as well be in a different decade, but that is one high hill to climb. If TenPlay continue to improve their hardware support and offer full AirPlay as planned, their service will very quickly give Australia’s current catch-up leader, ABC’s iView, a run for its money. Still, with Network Nine’s bizarrely named Jump-In catch-up service also recently relaunched, TenPlay shouldn’t take things too slowly.

    TenPlay may have opened up with a very average score on their Eye on-Demand review debut, but watch this space over the next 12 months and I suspect things will be changing fast for this popular Australian network.

    Pros:

    • Good SD quality streams.
    • Watchlist (by way of the Playlist)
    • Ability to track content (notify when new episodes arrive and older ones near expiration)
    • Colourful and clean layout.
    • Live streams of News or Current Affair Shows when available.
    • TV guide for all FTA channels and Foxtel.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • Watchlist and tracking.

    Cons:

    • No AirPlay support.
    • No offline access.
    • Limited hardware support.
    • No full news or current affairs episodes or bulletins, only clips.
    • No countdown to live streams.

    Technical Details:

    • Browser support includes IE 9 or 10, Firefox, Chrome or Safari
    • Mobile support includes iPhone 5 (iOS 6 or higher) and iPhone 4/4s (iOS 6 only)
    • Hardware support also includes dedicated iPad app, Xbox One (when launched), Xbox 360 and selected Sony Bravia TVs.
    • Programmes are available for between 7 and 30 days after broadcast.

    Log:

    29.11.2013: Review published. Score 5: Colourful.

    26.02.2014: Updated with renewed bitrate tests.

    19.09.2014: Added Android review. Score updated to 5.1

     

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

     

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Comments

  1. gary bourke

    downloaded the tenplay app on my ipad air . Cant remove the tenplay banner from my screen when using facebook and other sites on safari

  2. ian

    Its good but can get a lot better.

    I find the interface “clunky” and it breaks away for advertisements at strange times.

    I appreciate the service as its great to catch up on missed shows – last week a storm blew my antennae down and I missed several days of TV.

    • Absolutely agree with you, there is quite a bit of work all of the Australian commercial networks could throw into their catch-up services. Amazing really how SBS, the tiny channel has one of the best catch-up services in the country!

  3. samantha

    DONT BOTHER WITH TEN PLAY! its totally big waste of time. just wanted to watch the end of a show because my recorder didnt get it all because of breaking news. i have try 5 time to watch 5mins. i got about 20+ of ads and when i finally got to my 5min each time it wont play. never using again……

  4. We use replay free to air shows all the time and this would have to be the worst of all. We understand ads have to be shown and that is not the problem. It freezes and we can’t catch up to where we left off. It freezes and then we have to hit play and then it freezes again. We wasted 30 extra minutes watching a show. Advise to everyone, if u don’t see it in the first time, don’t bother to use Tenplay. The ABC – iview is 1,000,000 times better.

  5. Aguero

    Shocking quality, watched over 15 minutes of ads, only for the actual show to last 9 seconds before it stops completely. Did this 4 times. Highly recommend you do not use this.

    • It’s amazing how so many broadcasters screw up with VOD ads. I was experiencing similar problems with Plus7 on the ATV4, where sometimes it would repeat the 5 ads of an commercial break 2 or 3 times before finally going back into the show – and this was especially annoying as Plus7 only has a couple of ads they repeat over and over again. Let us know what platform you experienced this problem on, and you should definitely tell TenPlay.

  6. Val

    Can’t stand watching the same ad, 3 times within the same add break. And again and again and again. Can’t resume play or bypass…very painful interruption to pleasant viewing!!!

  7. This is the most frustrating website I have ever encountered. We are trying to watch Masterchef and this is the 3rd night trying to watch the same episode and getting the message “your video cannot load” at the middle of the episode after an advert break. We have tried it on 3 different browsers and 2 different computers, so it’s definitely a Tenplay issue.

    • Jo Chambers

      Hi Ale,
      While TenPlay have a lot to blame, sadly watching video on a browser is probably the worst way to do it. A browser is a jack of all trades, but master of none platform, and video streaming is about the most taxing thing that can be thrown at it.

      While there are things that TenPlay could do to make it work better, it will still not work anywhere near as well as a dedicated app or even better, a dedicated platform. Ever noticed how much better streaming works on a phone, yet when played on a computer’s browser many times more powerful and more expensive it fails?

      I have such mixed results myself on almost any form of streaming through browsers, I won’t use this method any more unless I really have to.