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Eye on Demand | June 24, 2017

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Plus7 Review

Plus7 Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
6
User Interface
6
Content on Offer
6.5
Device Availability
6
Mobile
6
6.1

Best of Australia's Commercial Catch-Up!

Plus7 is the catch-up service offered by Australia’s highest rated free-to-air television Network, which should give it a good incentive to be the best as well. So is it worth the effort, or are the guys over at the Seven Network just stringing us along? Check out our review to find out.

Despite the numbering system, the Seven Network launched after the Nine Network under HSV-7 in 1956 Melbourne, but has grown to become the highest rated television network in the country, ahead of the Nine Network, Network Ten, ABC and SBS.

All that history aside, the Seven Network’s foray into catch-up TV reaches the world via a partnership with Yahoo, giving the service one of the least tongue-slipping names in the industry; Yahoo!.7 TV Plus7 – which from this point on we will just call it what everyone else does, Plus7.

With a weekly schedule that is dominated by local reality, game and lifestyle shows, and topped up by mostly American OTA imports, the Seven Network clearly caters for the mass market. As a 100% commercial television network, it is funded by advertising and the odd bit of revenue from production sales, but outside of its most famous soap (Home and Away), there wouldn’t be a lot of content known at a global level.

Video playback is distinctively SD in quality, with streams averaging around 2000kbps (platform dependent) in my own tests. Despite this respectable bitrate for a standard definition stream, video quality would be best described as average. As long as there are no sharp movements, streams will be good enough to enjoy for anything but the most demanding of shows – and certainly good enough for the pile of reality TV that is available.

Shows are added shortly after airing and last for between 7 and 28 days, depending on licensing agreements. And Plus7 were also the first Australian broadcaster to offer live simulcasts of all their channels via the Internet – at least on selected platforms. (Tip: If you are going to watch TV on a mobile phone, turn the device around unlike the actors on the clip below)

Platform support is relatively large for Australia’s commercial catch-up television world, but lacks when compared to the public networks of ABC and SBS. At the time of publication this included web browsers, iOS, selected Android devices as well as Samsung Smart TVs, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Apple TV 4, Telstra TV and select Sony Smart TVs.

Plus7Banner

 

  • Content

    Like the other two major commercial networks in Australia, don’t expect a lot of homegrown drama or comedy. The bulk of Australian productions produced or purchased by the Seven Network sits unashamedly in the reality or lifestyle genres.

    This doesn’t mean you won’t find any local dramas, as at the time of publication, there was one current Australian show, Winners and Losers, with the rest of comedy and drama filled by mostly American or British imports.

    But that doesn’t mean the odd surprise doesn’t find its way onto the service, with a particularly interesting new drama about to air, 800 Words – a new Australian drama from Seven set in the least Australian of places, New Zealand.

    And of course, Plus7 is the best place to watch the latest episodes of the network’s most globally known soap, Home and Away. Hugely popular in the UK as well as seen in Ireland and New Zealand, Plus7 will offer the latest episodes, sometimes weeks ahead of broadcasts outside of Australia.

    Whether it’s imported American or British series (great for global cord cutters), soaps such as Home and Away, or Australian lifestyle and reality shows, if this is the sort of content you really like, you’ll be as happy as a dog with three balls.

    Plus7 content

  • via Web Browser

    https://au.tv.yahoo.com/plus7

    Plus7 has a promising start on their webpage. Once logged in (and this requires a Yahoo account), there is the ability to set favourites via a Watchlist and confusingly similar My Shows list, along with a useful Continue Watching list, of which technically speaking, all three could have been mixed into a single list to make it easier and more accessible.

    There is even somewhat of an Episode Management element, where viewed episodes can be kept track of, and a time-bar exists to show where you left an unfinished show.

    Viewers can Resume a partially finished show, and it will remember spots saved over from other platforms such as iOS, and fast forward or rewinding is easy by dragging the slider across the bottom of the playback window. It’s just a pity there are no thumbnails or previews to aid in finding that exact spot.

    But at the end of the day, it all comes down to picture quality, and this is where it is a bit hit and miss when viewing on a browser – not that all the problems are the fault of Plus7 here, as browser viewing is generally speaking an unreliable experience.

    I found video quality varied quite a bit, and at times it could appear quite choppy. This was in contrast to the constant bitrate of 1890kbps* often streaming in, which was the same as iOS on paper, but visually inferior. When compared to the iOS or Samsung Smart TV streams, the video I saw on the web browser clearly came last.

    Plus7 Web 1890kbps

    Plus7 also offer live streams of their three linear channels, with video quality averaging around 1640kbps* during my bench-test. In all fairness, live streaming takes a bigger hit by distance than on-demand and the fact that I’m half a world away may have affected these results.

    Plus7 Web LIVE 1640kbps

    Overall Plus7’s effort via a browser was reasonably solid, but it could improve on a few things. For one, while they’ve made a good start on Episode Management, where it will clearly show which episode in a series is unfinished, it doesn’t actually show which episode you have watched. This can be a little confusing if it’s been a while since you were last watching the series.

    Platform Pros:

    • Watchlist and Resume features.
    • Episode Management.
    • Cross-platform Support.
    • Live streams of all channels.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams.
    • Video visually not as good as some other platforms.
    • Episode Management needs work.
    • Help button just goes to generic Yahoo website.

    (Accessing Plus7 from outside of Australia may require using a Smart DNS service or VPN)

    Catch-up BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTONCC BUTTONLive TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad Getflix

     

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

  • via Apple iOS

    Best 2I’ve been playing around with Plus7’s iOS app since they first appeared on the scene, and although their updates are a little too far in-between for my liking, the app is really starting to mature into a solid platform worth considering.

    Log in to the app with your Yahoo account, and everything watched, liked or followed on the web browser will cross over to this platform as well, including Resume positions from unfinished shows.

    The only odd thing I couldn’t quite figure out, was that it seemed to take a little longer for a show to arrive on the iPad after it was already available via the website. Still, with all the other features found on the web portal, and a more stable picture quality complete with AirPlay, the iOS app has been my personal choice when I want to fire up Plus7 at home.

    Speaking of video quality, despite the same bitrate as my web browser tests, averaging 1890kbps*, picture quality appeared considerably higher. Still, Plus7 are only streaming in SD which is always a bit disappointing in 2015. After-all, it ain’t the 1980s any more.

    Plus7 iOS 1890kbps

    While still on playback, Plus7 unfortunately seem to have stopped their support for AirPlay. This is a huge downer, especially since the Apple TV 4 app doesn’t yet offer live streaming.

    What they thankfully do get right is offering live streams of all their three channels. We tested the live simulcasts at an average 1540kbps* feed, which was buffer free and for the most part looked ok if a little bury. However, we also noticed pixelation on fast moving action, notably sports, which is a bit of a pity really, as this would be a classic example of when live viewing would be chosen over catch-up.

    As well as a lack of AirPlay, also missing is Chromecast, and we experienced the same annoying issue with Episode Management where although a half-watched episode is clearly labelled with a time-bar, a fully watched episode is not, and appears exactly the same as one that hasn’t been started.

    Platform Pros:

    • Watchlist and Resume features.
    • Episode Management.
    • Cross-platform Support.
    • Live streams.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams.
    • AirPlay support seems to have gone.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • No Offline downloads.
    • Video visually not as good as some other platforms.
    • Episode Management needs work.

    (Accessing Plus7 from outside of Australia may require using a Smart DNS service or VPN)

    Catch-up BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON AirPlay BUTTONLive TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad Getflix

     

     

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

     

     

  • via Samsung Smart TV

    Plus7’s Samsung TV app would have achieved the best platform award if it had moved on a bit since it was first released, but I’d be hard pressed if I can find any new features since the app originally launched on the Samsung Smart Hub all those years ago.

    Don’t get me wrong, as far as playing back content from the Seven Network goes, it actually works really well, and with the best picture quality of all the platforms tested so far. Just don’t expect anything else.

    There is no Episode Management to speak of, so keep a pencil and paper handy to keep track of what episode and series you are currently viewing. There is no cross-platform support either, and event the playback time-bar requires an additional button on the remote to activate.

    As should be expected with everything else missing, don’t bother looking for the live streams. Still, the folks at Plus7 have announced live streams will arrive on all platforms by the end of this year, so hopefully we also see their other features arrive on this platform soon enough.

    FFW and REW functions without too much hassle, but the lack of any thumbnail guides will eventually start to bother most viewers.

    Video streamed through on my tests at a very respectable 2140kbps*, which is not bad for an SD service, and it shows with the highest quality picture tested yet. We would have liked to see an HD feed here, but Australian IPTV services have been a little reluctant to stream in high definition, which despite its name, is generally speaking considered the standard these days.

    Plus7 SmartTV 2140kbps

    It is just a shame that Plus7 on the Samsung Smart TV has not yet implemented cross-platforms support, and all the time-saving benefits that that brings.

    Platform Pros:

    • Good SD streaming quality.

    Platform Cons:

    • No Cross Platform support.
    • No ability to log in.
    • No Watchlist.
    • No Resume.
    • Poor Episode Management.
    • No live streams.

    (Accessing Plus7 from outside of Australia may require using a Smart DNS service or VPN)

    Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON

     

     

     

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

    Ad Getflix

     

     

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

  • Plus7 via Apple TV 4

    Note: Plus7 on the Apple TV is only available from the 2015 Apple TV 4 which includes the tvOS app store. Earlier models do not offer the Plus7 app.

    Just in time for Christmas 2015, Plus7 have added the Apple TV 4 as another supported platform. However, in order to get the app out so soon, it’s clear that they had to cut a few corners.

    For a start, don’t expect the usual Plus7 user interface, not that you’d miss much over the PS4 or Smart TV version. Plus7 have simply made use of the standard developer templates to rush out a basic, but functional app that will hopefully expand over time.

    There are three main tabs to choose from; Browse, Search and FAQs. Browse provides a selection of content and highlighted episodes to choose from, including lists such as Just Added, Most Watched and Expiring Soon.

    If what you are after is not found in the Browse tab, the Search one lists all of the Seven Network’s shows, including those which only have clips, along with of course the ability to search by name.

    Unfortunately That’s is about it. There are no live streams, no cross-platform support, no episode management and not even a resume function, but then again, Plus7 on many other platforms is no less crippled. Hopefully these will come soon, but until then playback of content averages 2360kbps*, which is a reasonable standard definition picture and the highest tested for Plus7.

    Plus7 ATV4 2360kbps

    FFW and REW also work pretty well thanks to the Apple TV 4’s touch-pad remote, where you can flip across the timeline and with the aid of thumbnails, find exactly the right spot quickly. It’s just a pity you’ll likely be bombarded with commercials immediately upon playback.

    Unfortunately I experienced a worrying issue on several occasions where the commercial break of 5 ads would repeat 2 or 3 times before the show would resume. This was especially annoying since all 5 ads were repeated anyway, which meant sometimes the same advert played 15 times in a row.

    Platform Pros:

    • Best SD stream yet for Plus7.
    • FFW & REW fast with track-pad and thumbnails.

    Platform Cons:

    • No Cross Platform support.
    • No ability to log in.
    • No Watchlist.
    • No Resume.
    • No Episode Management.
    • No live streams.
    • Commercial breaks have been known to repeat.
    • Ad bug that repeated the ad breaks several times before resuming show.

    (Accessing Plus7 from outside of Australia may require using a Smart DNS service or VPN)

    Thumbnail BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad Getflix

     

     

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

  • How to Access Globally

    As with almost all catch-up services around the world, Plus7 restrict access to their own country, which means those trying to watch content outside of Australia will be hit by the infamous geoblock.

    Fortunately homesick Aussie expats or business travellers abroad can still find relatively easy ways to avoid these restrictions and convince Plus7 that they are indeed still in Australia. So if you want to learn how to watch the latest episodes of Home and Away wherever you are in the world, moments after they air in Australia, read on…

    The most common method that rolls of the tongue is via VPN. This creates a tunnel from your device to Australia where traffic emerges complete with an Aussie IP address, asserting to Plus7 that you are indeed downunder. VPNs really are great, and quite easy to set up on a computer or mobile device, but they are notoriously difficult to configure on connected TV devices, Smart TVs and set-top-boxes.

    Long distances to Australia from the rest of the world can also cause serious buffering issues. Granted, for those nearby such as New Zealand, VPNs may be a good solution, but for much of the rest of the world, Australia’s location at the bottom end of the planet, coupled by the fact its guarded by man-eating spiders that can take out an emu for breakfast, VPNs are not always the best solution.

    Smart DNS as the best solution

    Probably the best way is via something called Smart DNS. Unlike VPNs, Smart DNS doesn’t tunnel all traffic, but simply redirects the question asked by the broadcaster as to where you are located, with the answer replied in this case as Australia. So the video stream takes the fasted route to your screen resulting in generally speaking the best quality feed possible.

    Smart DNS is also cheaper than VPN in most cases, is easier to set up and can allow content to work on devices that do not allow VPN configurations, which just so happen to be most Smart TVs and set-top-boxes.

    The catch is that a Smart DNS must support the requested service, and often on specific devices. Plus7 is not a widely supported service with Smart DNS companies, but there are some that include it in their line-up. Below is a list of Smart DNS companies that we know of which support Plus7 both for their catch-up (on-demand) content as well as live streams.

    Ad Getflix

    Smart DNS is the best choice also for cord cutters. Those wanting to cut the cord from their cable overlords often find a lot of their favourite shows are no longer available. Having access to free-to-air catch-up content from around the world also means that many American and British shows that are no longer available to the cord cutter, can be accessed easily enough from abroad.

    Note: To get access to Plus7 on iOS, you will need a free Australian iTunes account. This is very easy to set up if you follow these instructions.

    To access Plus7 on a Samsung Smart TV, you must switch the Smart Hub to Australia. This won’t affect normal television functionality, and can be done easily by following the D&E series guide here, or the F and H series guide here.

  • Conclusion

    For a more detailed look at how Plus7 performs on a range of platforms, as well as how to access it globally, click one of the tabs above. But overall Plus7 is one of the best performers in Australia’s commercial television catch-up world. It supports a reasonable range of platforms, with average SD quality streams and a good selection of the shows aired on television, along with an innovated edge not seen by the other commercial networks yet.

    Content is… well, not terribly original, unless you like a lot of Australian reality shows and imported British or American dramas and comedy. But there are the odd Australian gems, especially with  the popular 800 words, and the Seven Network’s most famous export, Home & Away.

    And for Home & Away fans, watching the latest episodes just as they air on Australian television is good enough reason to get hold of this service, even if it means using Smart DNS when abroad – Plus7 is after-all, free.

    In fact, Plus7 is even doing a reasonably good job with Episode Management on their web portal and iOS, with good cross-platform support making the iPad or iPhone our current best platform choice – especially now that they have the addition of live streams alongside their catch-up content!

    It’s not all sunshine and Moreton Bay Fig trees however, as there are a few bugs with their implementation of Episode Management and a continued reluctance to stream in HD, something which may somehow seem logical in Plus7’s boardrooms, but far less so on our screens – and while we’re at it, where is Chromecast and AirPlay support?

    Still, debuting at top place for Australian commercial catch-up reviews, Plus7 has nothing to be ashamed at. Sure, it is a few years still behind the BBC iPlayer or Netflix, but what they have is a pretty good start.

    Pros:

    • Good platform range for an Australian commercial TV catch-up service.
    • Average SD video quality.
    • Fairly good UI.
    • Account system muddled in with Yahoo.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • Live streams!

    Cons:

    • No HD Streams.
    • Basic Episode Management.
    • No AirPlay.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Some platforms are very limited.
    • Commercial breaks may repeat the same ad over and over again.

    Log:

    20.08.2015: Review published. Score 5.5 – Best of Australia’s Commercial Catch-up

    18.12.2015: Updated with ATV4 and live streams. Score increased to 6.1!

     

    To watch Plus7 from anywhere in the world, check out one of the Smart DNS providers below:

    Ad Getflix

    * 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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