So what’s the best Catch-up TV site?

Screen Australia has given ABC’s iview its stamp of approval as the leading Free to Air catch-up site for fresh TV content (we knew that already).

It ranks SBS second followed by TEN, Seven and Nine -but Nine did offer the most in terms of hours of content.

Screen Australia monitored the sites for four weeks from 13 February 2012, coinciding with the start of ratings.

The platforms varied in terms of the number of titles, the number of hours and the number of recently-broadcast titles.

The results were as follows:

ABC iview: 184
SBS On Demand: 87
TEN Watch TV: 71
Seven Plus7: 43
Nine NineMSN Video: 23

Recently Broadcast:
ABC iview: 97%
SBS On Demand: 85%
TEN Watch TV: 60%
Nine NineMSN Video: 54%
Seven Plus7: 51%.

Nine NineMSN Video: 345
ABC iview: 305
TEN Watch TV: 251
SBS On Demand: 214
Seven Plus7: 192

Of all the catch-up sites, iview led the field with the most new content. Nine offered plenty of content, but it was dominated by library titles such as McLeod’s Daughters series 5–8 and Sea Patrol series 1–5.

38 per cent of titles (157 programs) and 58% of hours were Australian.

It also looked at the various strategies of each site:

ABC iView
Of all the services, iView offers the largest amount of content in terms of titles. Over the fourweek survey period, iView offered 184 titles on average each week, totalling approximately 305 hours of content. iView primarily provides recently broadcast content, with back catalogue or exclusive content comprising only 3 per cent of titles and 2 per cent of hours. iView’s back catalogue or exclusive content included UK documentary series Peschardt’s People, classic animated series Astro Boy, and Untidy Desk, a series presenting live music performances. iView is distinguished by the substantial amount of children’s and preschool content, which is generally under-represented on the other services; in contrast, SBS On Demand and NineMSN Video had no children’s content, while Plus7 and Watch TV had a handful of titles. The ABC reports that children’s programs are amongst the most successful content on iView. Children’s content garners a relatively high number of plays in part because the programs typically have short durations, longer windows of availability and more episodes available at any one time.

SBS On Demand
SBS On Demand had the second-largest content offering in terms of titles, providing on average 87 titles a week, totalling approximately 214 hours of content.SBS On Demand is the only catch-up TV service to regularly offer feature films, with 16 films available on average each week. Although feature films achieve relatively low ratings on SBS broadcast channels, due in large part to airing outside peak viewing periods, they frequently appeared in the ’Most Popular‘ category of SBS On Demand. The types of programs on SBS On Demand broadly reflect its recent broadcast schedule, with an emphasis on food programming and documentary. SBS On Demand also offers back catalogue content consisting primarily of local productions, for example variety showRocKwiz, current affairs series Living Black and animated series World Tales.

There were on average 43 titles available on Plus7 each week, totalling approximately 192 hours of content. The recently broadcast programs largely consisted of primetime Australian and US drama and reality series. Exceptions included infotainment series Better Homes and Gardens, sports panel series Santo Sam and Ed’s Sports Fever and US documentary series Universe. Plus7 is notable for its large back catalogue, which accounted for 79 per cent of the hours available per week on average. This programming comes from a range of content partnerships including Sony Pictures International Television and Comcast International Media Group and includes offerings such as episodes of US variety series Saturday Night Live dating back to 1976 and US drama series Just Shoot Me, The Jeff Foxworthy Show and Ned and Stacy. These content partnerships allow Plus7 to offer television programs that have not aired on Australian free-to-air TV or have aired on other local networks.

NineMSN Video
Although NineMSN Video had the most limited offering in terms of titles, on average 23 per week, these titles accounted for a large number of hours – approximately 345 per week. 92 per cent of the hours available on NineMSN Video were back catalogue content. With the exception of UK series Thunderbirds, all were local productions.The recently broadcast content on NineMSN Video comprised US, UK and Australian drama, reality and documentary programs.

Watch TV (Network Ten)
Watch TV had the largest and most varied content offering of the commercial networks, presenting programs from across the broadcast day and from a greater variety of genres. There were on average 71 titles available each week, totalling approximately 251 hours of content. Watch TV differs from the other services by offering separate websites for Ten’s digital multichannels Eleven and One, whereas the other services integrate multi-channel content and main channel content on the one website. Watch TV also provides separate catch-up TV iOS apps for the main broadcast channel, Eleven and Ten Sports. Watch TV features comprehensive archives of local reality and infotainment productions such as Masterchef, Junior Masterchef, Ready Steady Cook as well as preschool series Wurrawhy. Watch TV’s online exclusive content also includes a monthly set of episodes from classic TV series airing on digital multi-channel Eleven, which can only be accessed online.

There is also info on the availability on devices, and info on how long the material is generally available for.

But there doesn’t seem to be any specific data on multichannel content (why isn’t Survivor available please Nine?) or on how quickly networks are adding the content after broadcast.

Screen Australia’s Strategy and Research Manager Matthew Deaner said, “With 94 per cent of Australians consuming on average three hours of television a day, networks’ on-demand services will play a key role in driving online viewing as the market matures.

“The moves taken by the biggest media companies into emerging markets online are what potentially set the trends for audiences. It’s important for the industry to understand the broadcasters programming strategies and what’s on offer in the online space.”

You can read the full report at Spotlight on Catch-up TV: Television Content on Demand, Screen Australia, June 2012.


  1. Maev....Sydney

    @ David Knox…..Oh thanks for that info….I might duck in and take a look at 9 again…sometime…
    Although if like like unlcepete said…they throw in one of ‘those’ ads….I am gone…

  2. I like abc iview and the sbs one as well. Mainly because, they are available on xbox. It is a wonder the other channels haven;t picked on this yet. As it is far better to sit back relaxing on my lounge catching up on the shows than at a stiff computer chair.

  3. @ Secret Squirrel – yep, although that is my main complaint with 9 too…

    I would also like to add that having the most hours as nine does is nice, but ultimately useless as they are nearly all old shows on the nine catch-up. Very few of the shows that are currently on are on there, compared to the other four.

    @ Liam – As to HD… for goodness sake harden up! Not everyone has the NBN yet 😛

  4. Secret Squirrel

    Yep, I’d agree with that order, except I’d put 7 below 9. I’ve only used 7’s & 9’s a few times but 7’s drops out a lot. That’s not the terrible bit – every time I restart I am forced to watch the first ad again and, then when I jump to where I was, I’m forced to watch the ads from the previous ad point. Again. Really annoying and so I rarely bother.

  5. No mention or analysis of technical quality… I’m an HD nut and would like a bit of high def streaming please, so I can enjoy these on my TV!

  6. I would generally agree with these assessments, having regularly used all 5 in the past few weeks. One of the biggest issues that I see is that they all use different platforms to stream the videos and so there is a lack of cohesion in how they operate on the platforms (Ten uses Movideo, 9 uses Silverlight, and I am unsure of the others).

    Advertising is the biggest bane as far as I am concerned. Not only are the ads repetitive and dull, there seems to be no attempt to target the ads at the particular viewing audience (I remember watching TBBT and seeing nothing but the same erection ad!). Also, I find that any problems that occur with streaming occur during or just after an ad has been broadcast. I realise they are a necessary evil, but there should be more of an attempt to ensure they work correctly.

  7. I agree with that ranking, too. Regularly use iView and SBS On Demand on the PS3. I loathe 7’s PS3 interface but the regular website catchup service is decent enough. Ten’s is great (but a PS3 interface is long overdue!). My only experience with 9’s was for The Celebrity Apprentice which I gave up using with the second episode coz there was too many faults and stops.

  8. Maev....Sydney

    That is the order I would have put them also….
    Iview is great….TEN is in sections…a tad irritating…and Nine…not going there….when I have to install Fixplay or something like that….when the others I can just go straight to and watch….

  9. No comment either on the Quality of the stream. I find iview the best and seven the worst although I don’t recall watching any nine so they may well be at the bottom.

  10. I want all catchup services to be available on Smart TVs. Currently I can access iView on my LG Smart TV, and 7Plus through the LG apps.
    However 7Plus is extremely light on content, none of their popular prime-time shows seem to be available. Not sure why the app version is so limited.

  11. No surprises that ABC Iview came out on top. I use it at least once or twice a day. Any programme you miss watching are always there and lot’s of great doco’s.
    Channel 9 has to be the worst. Especially for 60 Minutes. It just doesn’t exist on there or if it does I can’t find it. The whole thing is set out badly.
    Channel 10 seems to be a bit hit and miss. Usually it’s not complete shows but little 5 or 10 minute snippets.
    I’ve used Channel 7’s catch up a bit but the ad’s drive me insane and make me miss iView.

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