While free-to-air network Network TEN continues to struggle in the TV ratings, the network’s new responsive catch-up service, an end-to-end website which will allow their audience to be notified of new episodes, interact with shows, and watch the networks content, seems to have gone live.
Available on the web at TENplay.com.au (and redirecting from TEN.com.au), as well as on iOS, Windows 8, Xbox 360, and Sony BRAVIA TV’s, TENplay feels less like a disconnected iView-style service, where the content is partitioned away from the rest of the website, but rather like a complete hub for the network. Also disappointed, but not unexpected, is the lack of an Android or Windows Phone app. Even the above trailer includes a Galaxy S4, yet the app isn’t in Google Play and isn’t mentioned anywhere else on the site. Hopefully they figure that out sooner rather than later.
While the usual social features are there, comments, sharing on Twitter or Facebook, the functionality of TENplay suggests that it’s going to become their sole website.
For example, under The Project hub, rather than just having episodes of the show available, TENplay has news articles, guest-lists and other web-only content. It isn’t just catch-up, instead becoming the home for each show. Again, it’ll be interesting to see whether it’s moved to the main TEN domain.
As well as on-demand streaming, the website will also livestream TEN Eyewitness News and ‘sport’, with a trailer on TEN’s Facebook page even suggesting that the network will livestream 2014’s Winter Olympics.
In terms of the site itself, rather than being a coat-of-paint over the aging TEN.com.au, TENplay looks like a major rewrite of their content management system. Users who login will get access to show recommendations, email reminders for shows (which acts like Following a show on Twitter) and an ability to ‘Track’ shows. And as well as cross-device access, logged in users will be able to start watching a show on one app, then move to another where their place will be synced.
It sounds ambitious, and because of that it’s hard to guage how stable the site will be until it has completely launched, but it sounds like an interesting feature. In-fact, if the promise of TENplay is true, it sounds like the most capable catch-up service yet, beating the Flash-y iView and matching or surpassing SBS OnDemand. It leaves Seven and Nine’s functional, yet content-limited services, in the dust.
More specific features will likely become apparant as soon as the network starts marketing the website, as the website doesn’t appear to have completely launched. But it is expected to be officially launched tomorrow for a web-exclusive stream of US-drama, Homeland, just hours after the show airs in the US.
However the true question for TENplay is whether it can improve the entire networks current inability to build an audience. If users are reminded of shows, it could bump the networks loyalty or even eventually audience. And as well as this, theoretically, a catch-up service will let people who’ve missed out on TEN shows to start watching for the first time. While it sounds like a bad business move to give your viewers free online access, with few ads, to your shows, it could also convert web-natives into TV watchers, as they strive to watch ‘Fast-tracked’ shows or original content. It’s still easy to forget that TEN will likely fail in marketing the service, though, like they’ve done with recent TV series. The Bachelor?
It’s great to see TENplay moving forward on the digital-front, now the network just needs to find an audience, rather than hoping that the audience finds them.