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Eye on Demand | September 26, 2017

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3NOW Review

3NOW Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
7
User Interface
6.5
Content on Offer
6
Device Availability
5
Airplay, Chrome and Mobile
5.5
6

NZ's New FTA Benchmark!

New Zealand’s second largest FTA television broadcaster MediaWorks, runs the imaginatively named channels TV3 and Four along with their own catch-up service known as 3NOW. This commercial network may be considerably smaller than rival TVNZ, but 3NOW is quickly becoming the local benchmark for FTA catch-up television.

TV3 is probably the only major television channel where I actually watched their first ever broadcast. Believe you me, this was a big deal in New Zealand back in the summer of 1989. Prior to this day, NZ only had two other television channels, named TV1 and TV2, both operated by the government and without any true idea of what competition meant.

Those days are long gone, and today New Zealand’s television market comprises of a small, but healthy selection of FTA broadcast channels, complimented by pay TV operator Sky (No relation to the giant UK-based namesake) and a number of on-demand providers such as Netflix NZ, Quickflix NZ and Lightbox.

As this review goes to publication, 3NOW seems to be in the midst of a significant upgrade which has currently begun with their mobile devices adding a fresh new look, along with enhanced episode management. Combine this with the rather cool addition of live television streams from TV3 along with improved video quality, and 3NOW has suddenly become the leader in New Zealand for FTA catch-up television.

As for that video quality, it varies depending on the platform tested, with the highest bitrate medal going to the brand new Apple TV app or the revamped mobile platforms. Streams there are significantly higher quality than what TVNZ On Demand offers, reaching heights of around 4700kbps, which appears as a good 720p HD stream at its best.

On the downside, platform support could be better, with web, iOS, Android, Apple TV4 and selected Samsung Smart TVs supported. Much of the problem here is that ships delivering popular devices like Roku boxes or Fire TVs don’t stop at this tiny, remote island, but that doesn’t yet explain the lack of Chromecast, Xbox One or PS4 support.

 

  • Content

    While TV3 and Four’s content may not be as locally produced as we’d like to see, there is still enough NZ produced shows here to make it stand out, although not as many, at least as it seems as their rival TVNZ.

    Unfortunately, most New Zealand made shows appear to fit squarely within the realms of reality television, with lowbrow titles such as Cadbury Dream Factory, The GC or The Bachelor NZ dominating the schedule. But while there is a lack of New Zealand drama to be found, 3NOW at least has some locally produced comedy and strong news and current affair shows on offer.

    The bulk of the library however consists primarily of American, Australian and British imports, such as The Good Wife, Wanted, Blue Bloods, the Night Manager and Grand Designs.

    The selection below shows a portion of the titles available at the time of this publication.

    Content

     

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

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  • 3NOW via Browser

    Note: 3NOW have not yet updated their webpage to the new look and features found on their mobile devices, including the useful episode management options. These are likely to be updated in the future, in which case we will update this review. 

    If you didn’t know the national colour of New Zealand is black, you certainly will after browsing through 3NOW. When a website is this dark, it unfortunately is very difficult to not appear cluttered. Still, everything that is important can be found near the top of the page, with the top/left sporting what appears to be a heavily influenced TVNZ style panel called “Find Your Show”, listing content by A-Z, Title, Genre or Channel.

    The only thing really missing here is the New Zealand category in the Genre section. I always found this very useful to track down local content when visiting their competitors site, and let’s be honest here, it is the homemade productions that stands 3NOW out from the global crowd.

    Whilst browsing is quite well thought out with 3NOW, playback is a lot more simple, with episode management almost none existent.

    Video playing back within a window or full screen tested at an average bitrate of 1560kbps*. Whilst sucking this much data per second through your Internet pipe should result in a standard definition stream, our visual impression suggested otherwise. We noticed pixelation and artefacts that were not visible on 3NOW via alternative platforms, especially their new Apple TV 4 app.

    3Now Web 1560kbps

    Outside of playback, there is very little else going on here. I couldn’t find any way to resume a previously started show, which really is a bit poor, and there is no way to keep track of what shows or episodes have been watched, let alone cross-platform support with other devices. Still, if just pure playback is good enough for you, this website will do the job.

    All that said, 3NOW have provided a live stream of TV3, and when available, video quality appeared not to dissimilar to their catch-up service – if a little better. We’ll be adding a test graph to this review shortly.

    Platform Pros:

    • Easy to navigate.
    • Good selection of Genre, A-Z and other browsing aids.
    • Live stream available.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD.
    • No Google Cast support.
    • No Resume function.
    • No Watchlist or other episode management possibilities.
    • No cross-platforms support.
    • Lacks New Zealand Genre.

    (Accessing 3NOW outside of New Zealand may require a Smart DNS or VPN service)

    On-Demand - BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTONLive TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

  • 3NOW via iOS

    3NOW’s iPhone or iPad app is available free of charge via the New Zealand iTunes App Store

    3NOW have recently updated their iOS app to sport their new logo and look, and what a huge difference it is from the original dark and gloomy theme. Now it’s bright and fresh and along with being more pleasant to the eye, TV3 have also thrown in enough new features to make this app New Zealand’s best catch-up mobile portal by far, leaping well over TVNZ On Demand.

    Users now have to log in, which is technically not a bad thing, as it allows all those great features such as episode management and cross-platform support.

    The new Home screen sports a Recently Watched field that logs unfinished episodes. While this may not be the most exciting of ideas, it’s often the simple ones like this which make it so much easier to keep track of which shows you’re watching – a task that is becoming increasingly complex as more on-demand options become available. Unfortunately, at this stage only unfinished episodes are highlighted here, and it doesn’t yet keep track of shows you are watching where an episode has been completed, although this information is clearly identified once you reach the show’s own screen.

    Navigating through TV3’s library is relatively easy as well, with the home screen packed full of highlighted shows, along with the ability to search directly for a specific programme, or browse by genre.

    Once a series is selected, the screen is well laid out, with series details at the top/right, and a list of available episodes below – complete with well-thought-out episode management that clearly identifies unwatched, partly watched, and completed episodes. If only they also added a date to clarify when an episode will expire.

    Playback is simple, but effective, with a rather impressive bitrate measured at 4790kbps* and a picture that looked pretty much like a 720p HD stream.

    3Now iPad 4790kbps

    FFW and REW are generally achieved by the scrubbing bar, which also identifies where the commercial breaks lie, although it unfortunately lacks thumbnails. Still, there are also handy buttons to quickly hop back and forth 30 seconds just in case you missed something.

    If a live stream is available, you’ll also be able to access that from anywhere on the Home screen. This is a brilliant addition to 3NOW’s iOS app, and although at the time of publication, only 70% or so of TV3 was available for streaming live, MediaWorks has told Eye on-Demand that there are plans to expand this in the future, and possibly add TV Four as well. Live streaming looks pretty good for the most part, even from as far away from NZ as we were, averaging 2240kbps* in our tests.

    3Now iPad Live 2240kbps

    Finally, while there was sadly no Google Cast support, AirPlay across the board is a great new addition. While 3NOW supports AirPlay directly from the playback screen, there were no multitasking options. This means you can’t switch off the mobile device while airplaying or use it for another purpose as it will stop playback.

    Platform Pros:

    • Great video quality, possibly 720p.
    • Bright fresh new look.
    • Live stream of TV3.
    • Episode Management.
    • “Finish Watching” list.
    • Resume ability.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • AirPlay.
    Platform Cons:
    • No offline downloads.
    • No Google Cast support.
    • No expiry dates for episodes.
    • Missing NZ genre.
    • No AirPlay multitasking.
    • No personal horizontal/vertical selection.

    (Accessing 3NOW outside of New Zealand may require a Smart DNS or VPN service)

    CC BUTTONOn-Demand - BUTTONCatch-up BUTTONHD BUTTONResume BUTTONRecently Watched BUTTONTime Bar BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

     

     

  • 3NOW via Android

    The following app has been tested on a Samsung Galaxy Tab S running OS 5.0.2. Due to the enormous fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, features, availability and UI may vary dramatically between devices.

    3NOW’s new look has also been brought across to their updated Android app, and as long as your phone or tablet is found in the list of their supported Android devices and running OS version 4.1 or higher, you should be able to install it. And just like the new iOS app, 3NOW’s new incarnation brings far more than just a great fresh new look to the table, but adds a raft of new features as well.

    All that goodness comes with a requirement to sign in, and while a few people may moan about this, MediaWorks make this relatively easy by allowing viewers to either use their Facebook credentials, or create their own 3NOW account. Without logging in, many of the great new features such as Episode Management and Cross-Platform support simply wouldn’t be possible.

    But before we get to that, the home screen is where you’ll find yourself after the app fires up. Just like the new iOS app, there is the really handy Finish Watching section at the bottom of the screen, allowing viewers to quickly access unfinished episodes. Unfortunately, it also omits listing any next-up episodes in a season that is currently being watched, so while its is definitely welcomed, its usefulness isn’t quite as complete as it could be.

    Outside of the expected front-screen highlights, genre browsing and direct search, the biggest new feature on the home screen would be the live feed of TV3. As long as a stream is available, a link will always appear at the top/right of the home screen leading directly to the live feed, and just like on iOS, it’s a fantastic addition to the app. We tested the live stream at a very stable 2240kbps*, with a video quality we’d best describe as standard definition.

    3Now TV3 Live Android 2240kbps

    Catch-up content performs even better, with a tested average hovering around the 3490kbps* mark. While this is not as good as what we saw during our iPad test, it was certainly good enough for the small tablet screen, and considering there are no Google Cast options yet, we won’t yet complain too loud.

    3Now Android 3490kbps

    Cross-platform support between all mobile devices once logged into the same account worked flawlessly as well. We look forward to 3NOW rolling this out to all of their devices.

    Overall the app is not that different to the iOS version, minus the lack of AirPlay of course. Both apps have tablet-optimised versions, and both apps suffer from the inability to personally choose the horizontal or vertical aspect depending on the device at hand.

    What we’d like to see next are tweaks to their Recently Watched list to add the next episode in a completed show, plus of course Google Cast support. Naturally, as fans of the UK’s BBC iPlayer and All 4 apps, we’d also love to see offline downloads. This last potential feature would be an absolute treasure for people who commute or travel a lot, not to mention those who have poor bandwidth or strict mobile data caps.

    Platform Pros:
    • Great video quality, possibly 720p.
    • Bright fresh new look.
    • Live stream of TV3.
    • Episode Management.
    • “Finish Watching” list.
    • Resume ability.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • AirPlay.
    Platform Cons:
    • No offline downloads.
    • No Google Cast support.
    • No expiry dates for episodes.
    • Missing NZ genre.
    • No personal horizontal/vertical selection.

    (Accessing 3NOW outside of New Zealand may require a Smart DNS or VPN service)

    Catch-up BUTTONOn-Demand - BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • 3NOW via Apple TV 4

    It only took a couple of weeks for 3NOW to appear on the new 2015 Apple TV 4, beating TVNZ to last Christmas’ hottest streaming set-top-box. And while the rush to release the app shows, full kudos goes to TV3 for getting it out there so soon. This review is for the Apple TV 4 as 3NOW is not available on earlier models.

    Watching TV on a real television is more important to consumers than some broadcasters actually realise, and while it’s also vital to offer mobile options, when many of us get home, we would rather relax in front of the big screen TV rather than watch on our phones.

    3NOW’s Apple TV app hasn’t yet made the big leap to the broadcaster’s new version, so it lacks many of the important features also missing from their mobile platforms. There is no Watchlist or Resume options, and episode management is still missing, which quite frankly makes keeping track of what episodes you’ve watched impossible without having a pen & paper handy.

    The lack of cross-platform support means shows you may have watched on your mobile phone or tablet will not be identified on the ATV4, which can also make keeping track of where you are unnecessarily complicated.

    All that aside, once playback begins video quality is surprisingly good, especially if you are used to anything their main competitor TVNZ will throw at you. We tested their average stream at 4680kbps*, which technically should be a 720p HD stream, but our impression was somewhere just north of Standard Definition. Still, trying to spot any serious pixelation or visual artefacts was a challenge.

    3Now ATV 4680kbps

    FFW and REW is as rapid and sleek as you can expect for a streaming app on the Apple TV 4, making full use of the remote’s touch pad to swipe anywhere quickly along the timeline as well as 10 second back or forward hops.

    What many people don’t realise is that hidden in the Extras tab is TV3’s live stream! If a feed is available, you can expect a stable standard definition stream that averaged 1990kbps* in our tests. Having the live stream on the Apple TV 4 is a great feature from this app, and all the more worthwhile downloading it.

    3Now ATV live 1990kbps

    All up, while the app lacks the more refined features we have come to expect these days in a catch-up TV service, good points go towards the video quality and easy to navigate UI. We just can’t wait until they update it to fall in line with 3NOW’s mobile apps.

    Platform Pros:

    • Good selection of Genre, A-Z and other browsing aids.
    • Good video quality.
    • Good user interface.
    • Fantastic to get the app out so quick!
    • Live Streams of TV3.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD Streams.
    • Missing NZ genre.
    • No Resume or Watchlist.
    • No Episode Management.
    • No cross-platform support.

    (Accessing 3NOW outside of New Zealand may require a Smart DNS or VPN service)

    CC BUTTON On-Demand - BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTONLive TV BUTTON

     

     

     

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

    Ad GetflixAd SDNSP

  • How to Watch 3NOW from Abroad

    There are a lot of great reasons why many people may want to set up 3NOW outside of NZ, besides of course the obvious expat motives. 3NOW would be a great addition to the Apple TV 4’s Australian lineup that also includes TenPlay, SBS On Demand, ABC iView and Plus7. Why not add an extra free-to-air TV channel, and there is also a live feed which would work pretty well for many Australian’s due to the time zone.

    Watching 3NOW on your home television outside of NZ is not only possible, but incredibly easy to do. The trick is to grab yourself a good Smart DNS service. While some people tout VPNs, that method is a little out of date these days and nowhere near as good as Smart DNS.

    Smart DNS is faster than a VPN, easier to set up than a VPN, cheaper than a VPN, and unlike a VPN, it can be configured on most smart TVs and set-top-boxes. So how easy is it?… well that depends on which device you are using. The easiest of all would be the Apple TV 4 (Apple’s latest model), although IOS is also pretty easy.

    So grab yourself an Apple TV 4 and watch 3NOW catch-up or live today! You’ll need to add the 3NOW app to the device, and outside of New Zealand this is incredibly easy for the Apple TV 4 (Note: Earlier Apple TVs do not provide the 3NOW app). If you don’t already have an NZ iTunes account, create a free one using this guide. Then add the 3NOW app from the NZ app store. 3NOW can sit happily side-by-side with apps from your own region, so there are no issues there.


     

    Now, you just need to unblock 3NOW. Normally 3NOW notices if your IP address is outside of New Zealand and blocks access to the streams. The easiest way to unblock this is via a Smart DNS service.

    There are a lot of Smart DNS services out there right now, but very few support 3NOW. Our current favourite for the Australian and New Zealand broadcasters is Getflix, not only because they work great for 3NOW, but they also have fantastic support for the Apple TV 4 platform, meaning plenty of other apps like Australia’s Plus7, ABC iView and TenPlay or UK apps like TVPlayer and the BBC iPlayer work great outside their region.

    Ad GetflixGetflix offer a two week free trial with no credit card required for the trial period! This means you can test it out risk free, to see if it works in your home network. If you are happy with the service, they’ll charge only US$3.95 per month and cheaper if you go for longer plans – and that’s less expensive than a cup of coffee these days! Not bad really when you consider full access to all the amazing services they unblock.

    So why not give it a go and see how easy it is to work for you. You can set up the 3NOW on your ATV4, Android or iOS smart phone or tablet and even some Smart TVs.

     

  • Conclusion

    3Now has come a long way in the last couple of years, taking a significant lead over its much larger network rival from TVNZ On Demand by providing significantly higher quality streams, improved episode management, live simulcasts and AirPlay support. 3Now comfortably takes the spot as New Zealand’s most innovative FTA streaming service.

    There are a lot of things to like about 3NOW, at least with their mobile apps, and we just hope we don’t have to wait too long for their remaining platforms to catch up.

    TV3’s recent foray into live simulcasts can only be commended, even if they don’t include entirely full coverage yet. And while proper episode management is only beginning to find a foothold on their mobile apps, it is still a great start.

    Of course at the end of the day it all comes down to video quality, and here 3NOW beats its main rival TVNZ with flying colours. Whereas TVNZ On Demand is like watching television through a frosted glass door, 3NOW is crisp and enjoyable, whether on a tiny smart phone or a decent sized television – and this is hugely important.

    But it’s not all sunshine and pohutukawas. 3NOW is still lacking some vital platform support, with no PS4 or Xbox One app, neither Android TV nor Chromecast. And while their Apple TV 4 app is certainly welcomed, it lacks the refinement and features of their mobile apps.

    We’d also like to see offline downloads on mobile devices, and live streams for TV Four come to think of it, but I wouldn’t be half surprised if these features came to 3NOW before they hit TVNZ.

    Pros:

    • Fantastic portal to catch NZ made productions as well as some other imported content.
    • Good user interface for browsing.
    • Content includes full 6pm news bulletin (not geoblocked)
    • Bright fresh new look on some platforms.
    • Live stream of TV3.
    • Great video quality, possibly 720p on some platforms.
    • Episode Management on some platforms.
    • “Finish Watching” list on some platforms.
    • Cross-platform support on some platforms.
    • AirPlay support.
    • Small selection of box sets.
    • Small selection of movies included.

    Cons:

    • No Google Cast support.
    • No AirPlay multitasking.
    • No live streams.
    • No episode management.
    • No Resume or Watchlist.
    • No cross-platform support.
    • Limited range of platforms.
    • No expiry dates for episodes.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Some platforms need updating.
    • No Profiles.

    On-Demand - BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON Movies BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON HD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON Live TV BUTTON Episode log BUTTON Cross Platform BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    Log:

    27.08.2014: Review published. Score 5 – Good potential.

    20.11.2015: Major update including iOS and ATV4 review. Score increased to 5.2.

    19.04.2016: Major update adding Android and iOS’s new app, plus live streams. Score increased to 6 – “NZ’s New Benchmark”

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

    Found this review helpful? Why not like us on Facebook and help others find it?

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

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Comments

  1. David Cole

    Quite nasty confusing navigation also on the samsung tv.

    The show lists scroll horizontally, chose a show, then down 2 to select another older episode, then back up to watch it. Fingers get tired just thinking about it,

    Personally though, I find the quality a little better between 3 and tvnz (again via samsung smart tv)

    • Hi David, I’m in the process of testing 3NOW on the Samsung TV at the moment. 3NOW streams seem better quality to TVNZ, despite the bitrate being very similar, although I am seeing a 300kbps higher bitrate from 3NOW on the Samsung Smart TV. I agree the navigation does seem a bit odd, but I have seen worse.

  2. Josh

    For alot of new shows ,- eg x factor nz episode 1 and the final of block glasshouse to name a couple of recent shows,-
    the android app let’s you watch the adds (using your data) then tells you there is an error with the playback.
    pretty cheeky really, and will surely prove not too good for business on their part in the near future.
    when it does work though it works well with minimal adds compared to tvnz.

    • Hi Josh, are you experiencing this in NZ or outside via VPN or Smart DNS?