UPDATED: The game console as a living room hub?

By Peter Griffin 21/04/2010

See bottom for my hands-on review of TVNZ on Demand on the PS3

For some time there’s been a battle for the lounge room underway, with consumer electronics makers, PC vendors and games console players vying to provide the one box that provides all our entertainment needs.

In New Zealand the victor so far appears to be Sky TV, which has a winner on its hands with the My Sky digital video recorder. TiVo has arrived on the scene offering less channels, much more functionality but a flawed sales model which has led to disappointing uptake for Hybrid TV and its partner Telecom New Zealand.

Sitting in the background have been Sony and Microsoft who in the form of the Playstation 3 and Xbox respectively have a device that is internet-enabled and capable of delivering streamed content form the internet, as well as play music and videos from disks, hard drives and flash memory cards. But what the games consoles haven’t been able to do as well as My Sky and TiVo is deliver video on demand, when viewers want to watch it. I currently download videos on my computer and play them on the PS3 console – its a great experience, but it isn’t a seamless, integrated feature offered by Sony. I watch videos using the Youtube client on the PS3 which is a little clunky but gets the job done.

One step closer to what I’ve been looking for – an easy way to watch programmes on demand that is legitimate and user-friendly, arrived today in the form of TVNZ on Demand on the PS3. At least I hope it has, I haven’t trialled the service yet – I will do tonight and report back. Essentially, this service replicates the TVNZ on Demand website on the PS3 allowing you to watch shows like Shortland St and The Pacific delivered to the PS3 as a streaming video. If the video playback is anything like that offered through the TVNZ on Demand website it will be a good experience. The screengrabs below give you an idea of the user-interface, the TVNZ On Demand service slotting into the PS3’s media bar.

This is potentially a big deal for TVNZ – there are 105,000 PS3s in homes around the country. Provided they are connected to the internet via Wi-fi or ethernet, they can all access TVNZ content. It really is a potential glimpse of the future for the state broadcaster. It also could be an attractive medium for TVNZ’s advertisers as ads will be streamed at the start of on-demand shows and there’s the potential to direct people to an advertiser’s website at the touch of a PS3 controller. That could be very powerful for advertisers with creative online pitches.

For those who haven’t joined the My Sky or Freeview camps this could be an attractive option for on-demand TV, especially if TV3 hurries up and claims a presence on the PS3 too. As for the Freeview tuner card for the PS3 there was so much talk of a few years ago. It hasn’t emerged here, which is a shame as the PS3 is a great multimedia device for everything – other than receiving plain old free-to-air TV.

Will report back with hands-on experiences in the next instalment.


After signing into my Playstation account on the PS3 I wasn’t able to see the TVNZ on Demand icon on the media bar of the PS3’s user interface which initially caused some confusion. That was sorted out by visiting the TVNZ website where there are instructions on how to access the service via the PS3’s web browser, effectively you just enter www.tvnz.co.nz/video into the PS3’s web browser and the service will start up automatically.

The user-interface is clean and attractive, focused on vertical navigation for shows available to view and horizontal scrolling among categories such as “newest”, “most popular” etc.

Clicking on a displayed show brings up icons of all the episodes and clicking on one with the PS3 controller using a pointer on the screen starts the media player. You will be instantly greeted by an ad playing in small format in the middle of your TV screen – by the end of the night, the default ad for a shaver was beginning to grate on me.

Clicking on an icon on the media player’s tool bar expands the video to the full size of your TV, in my case, 48 inches. At that size, the video quality is fairly average, akin to a reasonable quality Youtube clip (HD is likely to be added to TVNZ on Demand at a later date).

Audio quality on the other hand is good. The media tool bar is fairly easy to use and nice to navigate with the PS3 controller.

The one big downside to the service identified in a few hours experimenting with it is the reliability of the video stream. All of the shows I played, from Close Up to Gordon Ramsey to The Pacific stuttered along, pausing every minute or so. Annoyingly, this brings up the media tool bar each time, which takes about 30 seconds to disappear from the screen. So if the video stuttering isn’t enough, this intrusion, makes for an even more distracting sideshow.

I am using the PS3 over a Wi-fi network and have no problem streaming Youtube clips, so I’m assuming the bandwidth issue is at the TVNZ end – perhaps heavy demand on launch day.

Because I am an Orcon customer, use of TVNZ on Demand on the PS3 is zero-rated, meaning the streaming doesn’t eat into my monthly data allowance, which is a major advantage.

All up, a well executed service that has its limitations – picture quality, reliance on video streaming being the biggest ones.

What is impressive is the large amount of content here. Now why didn’t TVNZ load all of these shows onto its TiVo CASPA on demand video service? Seems like a no-brainer to me…



0 Responses to “UPDATED: The game console as a living room hub?”

  • Hmmm. The video streamed smoothly for me on a 3mbit/s Wired Country connection, and I’m pretty sure Orcon peers properly, so it *should* have been okay for you. OTOH, my PS3 is connected via ethernet, not wi-fi.

    Also, the ondemand icon showed up on the XMB on mine without me having to do anything. Might you be missing a firmware update or something?

  • Yeah I’m on Orcon’s unbundled exchange so I don’t think there’s any issue there. Wifi isn’t ideal but youtube usually does okay. Did a lengthy firmware update before using the service so should get the icon but not seeing it.

  • Turn your PS3 on and off (possibly more than once), this should fix the issue.