Hard News by Russell Brown


Catching up with the future of television

As I noted on Twitter yesterday morning, TVNZ ondemand's catch-up programming can now be viewed on an internet-connected Playstation 3. For the 65,000 (or 105,000, depending on who you believe) PS3 users, this is a fairly compelling service, and an impressive achievment for TVNZ's team.

Like the video on the TVNZ website, the PS3 pictures are delivered in Flash format -- the local programes are progressive download Flash and the foreign programmes are secure streams. There are options to stream at either 300Kbit/s or 700Kbit/s, with a full HD service planned for the future, as network performance allows. The service is funded by pre-roll advertisements – one per chapter of the video. (As an example, The Pacific is split into seven chapters.)

The PS3's browser was, I gather, originally developed as a mobile application and requires a player with a very small memory footprint. The plan to deliver to the PS3 has existed for three years, but development began on the player being used last November.

At least one friend has found the player crashing, but it's working fine for me. It's certainly better than the wretched YouTube application released by Sony – both because it's better code and because the ondemand service enjoys something not available to the PS3 YouTube app: a content distribution network.

Happily, the launch has coincided with a long-awaited peering agreement between Telecom and FX Networks that will allow Telecom customers to take advantage of the CDN. Probably. The agreement only applies to 19 of Telecom's local interconnection points, and it's been suggested to me that some regional centres will miss out on the improved performance.

Something else worth noting: only Orcon customers will enjoy zero-rated data (ie: it won't count against your data cap) from the ondemand service.

One obvious question for Sony yesterday was: where's PlayTV? The PS3's PVR add-on is an increasingly popular means of viewing and recording Freeview in Britain, and it works locally – but does not have the Freeview NZ electronic programme guide. The answer: it's coming. Sometime.

When it does, you have to say that the PS3, with its Blu-Ray player, PVR, ability to play .avi files and IP-based catch-up programming will look a lot more attractive than TiVo, even for non-gamers.


You may know that Dimmer are playing at the US launch for the Chris Knox tribute album Stroke on Thursday May 6 at Le Poisson Rouge bar in New York, along with Yo La Tengo, The Clean, Portastatic, Jeff Mangum (yes, really) and others. The show is also a fundraiser for Chris.

You have a chance to see Dimmer warm up for the New York show in Auckland and Wellington this weekend – Friday night at the King's Arms (Deer Park and Faults), and Saturday at Bodega in Wellington (with Tiddabades).

It gets better. I have two double passes to each show to give away to Public Address readers. Just tell me which song Shayne Carter covered on Stroke. Click "Reply" and put your answer in the subject line of your email. I'll get back to you.

Another treat: The Phoenix Foundation are previewing tracks from their forthcoming album, Buffalo. Their site also features the winners of the band's rather inspired Buffalo design competition. They're very good.

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