Nine Network’s Jump-In Review
Quality of Video Stream5
Content on Offer6.5
Australia’s Nine Network’s new catch-up service “Jump-in”, is almost as colourful as the history of the network itself, and despite spending the last couple of years languishing in the depths of on-demand embarrassment, the Nine Network has finally burst forward with one of the most eye catching catch-up services anywhere.
28.01.2016: Opps! Nine have just gone and changed absolutely everything. As of late January 2016, Jump-In is no longer active and has been replaced by 9Now. This is a whole new service built from the ground up that mixes live streams with catch-up. We’ll have to get around to write a whole new review when we get time.
The Nine Network as it is known today not only aired Australia’s first ever television broadcast, it also was responsible for the country’s first regularly screen programmes in colour, the nations first Olympics broadcast as well as changing the face of world cricket under the helm of Kerry Packer. Almost since its inception, the Nine Network has dominated Australia’s television ratings and only since 2007 has it not constantly reigned at the top spot, so why did it take such an innovative and progressive network so long to offer a good catch-up service?
In November 2013, the Nine Network revamped it’s online presence from a web service that was so bad, the term outdated could even have been applied last century. The Network has quietly distanced itself from it’s older association with MSN (the ninemsn service) and taken over the television social website Jump-in, offering an improved layout, design and feature list, as well as the English speaking world’s most confusing IPTV name.
What we get with the improved service is a beautifully designed new website and a flash looking iOS app. There is still a lot of missing features and a serious lack of hardware support, but if the new changes are anything to go by then there should be no doubt the future of Jump-in is rather bright.
One good start to the new service is the respectable video quality. Although nothing compared to the likes of the BBC or Netflix, the streams I tested were some of the better ones in Australian catch-up television, though don’t let the high bitrate of 2470kbps* mislead you. With a bitrate that high, we should be seeing enhanced SD at the very least, but it appears much closer in quality to what the average 600kbps stream would provide.
Content is often a bit of a downer for Australian commercial networks, as they tend to concentrate more on American or British imports rather than their own home produced material. But if you filter deep enough, you will find Australian made content and not just in the obligatory Lifestyle or Reality categories. To top it off, Jump-in also stream films – something not so common with many FTA catch-up services. Well, let’s not expect Netflix quantities here, or even Crackle for that matter. At the time of writing, Jump-in offered one full length film, Sharknando, a 2013 B-movie about killer sharks strolling the streets of L.A. – I didn’t say it would keep you away from the cinema, did I.
On the other hand, Jump-in also offer a back-catalogue on selected, mostly locally produced titles on-demand. For instance, The Block is offered in all six seasons and 235 episodes, while 5 seasons and 68 episodes of Sea Patrol are also available. Not a lot of catch-up services actually offer an on-demand back-catalogue, so this is certainly in Jump-in’s favour.
Sadly, due to serious platform limitations, I was not able to watch any streams on my main television, not even that shark thing. Sure, I could have lugged my desktop to the living room and cabled up an HDMI connection, but that’s a little too old school for me and besides, I don’t want my power hungry desktop on the whole time I watch a TV episode. Hopefully Jump-in will improve hardware support soon, starting with AirPlay and adding more Smart TVs and set-top boxes.
Something positive has to be said about the sudden new designs for Australia’s commercial catch-up television services, with the Nine Network following Network Ten’s lead in a full-screen bashfulness of colour that would make Ken Done raise an eyebrow in appreciation.
In fact, my first thoughts on the Nine Network’s new Jump-in website was that I landed accidentally on Network Ten’s Tenplay service – they are that similar. I don’t know if they have been exchanging web designers lately, but the wide colourful banner at the top, following by similar rectangular programme or episode posters really do share a resemblance with each other.
All that aside, the new approach works just as well for Jump-in, with the home page offering an enormous Highlights banner that is not blighted by too many ads. Latest Catch-Up and Last Chance sections suggest a limited range of content, but if you head to the main Catch-Up page you can browse everything by A-Z or filter down by Genre.
The search function is pretty nifty, in that it works from the first letter in any word of the title, bringing up both an immediate list as well as a small poster for the highlighted programme. It’s not exactly groundbreaking, but I like its implementation and it is better than the average FTA catch-up service.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the lack of some seriously basic and standard features. There is no account function which means there are no Watchlist, cross-platform support, or even a reliable Resume feature.
Video quality is average with a near-SD stream that can look fine depending on the platform. Jump-in state that streams require approximately 300MB for each 20-or-so minutes of actual playback (minus commercials) regardless of platform, which matches my own tests. Technically, this should provide a better quality stream than what I am seeing, so I suspect that the compression algorithms are not some of the better ones out there.
Overall, the website is now a pleasure to use. It may lack many features which hopefully won’t take as long to arrive as it did for the Nine Network to take catch-up seriously, but once you start watching a programme in full-screen, it works very well.Note: I experienced best performance via Chrome on my iMac, with Firefox stuttering as it usually does these days, and Safari simply refusing to play – just like with Tenplay – It is worth pointing out that your computer will need to have an Australian time-zone set, so if you are watching via Smart DNS or VPN, you will need to make sure this is set – if it still fails, try clearing your cache and restarting the browser.
- Good near-SD streams.
- Beautiful, colourful and uncluttered layout.
- Nice search feature.
- No indication of ad-placements in the timebar.
- No HD streams.
- No ability to log in.
- No Watchlist or Resume.
(Accessing Jump-in when outside of Australia may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)Jump-In iMac HomeJump-In iMac FeaturedJump-In iMac GenreJump-In iMac SelectionJump-In iMac Full-Screen
This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:
So why the low score? After-all, this is a beautifully designed and well laid out catch-up service that not only offers episodes from selected shows for the last month, along with a small, but welcomed on-demand back-catalogue. The user interface is far from awkward and the video quality is average.
The problem is, Jump-in is still missing so many of the basics which we expect these days in the catch-up world. There are too many missing UI features like a Watchlist, Resume, or even the ability to track a previously watched programme, no cross-platform support, and speaking of which it is somewhat thin on the hardware support as well. Just to keep viewers away from the TV as much as possible, there isn’t even AirPlay support, outside of mirroring and the consequential black bars.
One could have forgiven the Nine Network here if this was 1997, but we are well and truly immersed in the catch-up and on-demand world these days, which doesn’t leave Jump-in a lot of excuses for being late to the party.
- Well designed layout, clean and clutter-free.
- Back-catalogue on-demand for the Nine Network’s own productions.
- Good range of shows available.
- Video quality average.
- Limited hardware support.
- No AirPlay support (outside of mirroring).
- No full SD or HD streams.
- No offline access.
- No full news or current affairs episodes or bulletins, only clips.
- No live streams.
- Jump-in state a 22minute show requires 300MB, whilst a 42minute programme uses approx 600MB.
- Available on iOS, Mac/PC (requires Flash), Xbox One.
06.12.2013: Review published. Score 4.7 – Great Improvement.
11.03.2014: Bitrate tests and browser tips.
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