More and more Australian homes are shunning free-to-air TV, which is understandable considering the drivel pumped out by the commercial networks and their general contempt for viewers. Even so broadcast television is still a mainstay in many lounge rooms, with FreeviewPlus making it easier to find those hidden gems.
Its streaming video service has undergone a Netflix-style makeover, making it easier to find something decent to watch on free-to-air television. Here are our first impressions.
The cross-network streaming service got off to a slow start but FreeviewPlus is gradually finding its way into more lounge rooms, built into a growing number of HbbTV-compatible Smart TVs along with the AerialBox T2200 PVR.
If your television is only a few years old then chances are it supports FreeviewPlus, pressing the green button on your remote to call up the Freeview onscreen Electronic Program Guide (EPG) or the red button to launch the Catch Up apps from the various broadcasters.
More than skin deep
The latest revamp is available on all FreeviewPlus-compatible devices, it should appear automatically and you don't need to run a software update. At first it looks like simply a cosmetic makeover, launching a new slick-looking interface when you press the green button, but it's worth digging a little deeper.
For starters, the new layout does a better job of using the available screen real estate. It also draws more attention to Freeview's handy "reverse EPG", which lets you scroll back through time through the EPG in search of Catch Up TV for shows you've missed, rather than diving into the individual Catch Up apps.
The new look comes as Freeview also revamps its Freeview FV mobile app to support Chromecast streaming. Sometimes it's easier to find what you want on your smartphone and then fling it to your television, rather than navigating through a Smart TV interface, but the new-look FreeviewPlus app on televisions has a few tricks up its sleeve.
The biggest change to the FreeviewPlus home screen is easy access to the new My TV menu – a Netflix-style dashboard which mixes live TV and Catch Up TV from all the broadcasters so it's easier to wade through the rubbish and find something worth watching.
The green-button FreeviewPlus app has always aimed to be more than just an onscreen TV guide and Catch Up TV aggregator, and My TV helps it deliver on that promise. It's now a TV guide in the true sense of the word, blending live and Catch Up TV whilst making suggestions based on your viewing habits.
From within the FreeviewPlus app you press the yellow button to launch My TV, whereas before yellow was the Menu button offering separate categories like Catch Up, Feature and Favourites. The new My TV menu combines all this into a slick dashboard which gives you an overview of all your viewing options at a glance.
My TV shows you what's on TV right now, with the ability to surf across the entire EPG. Below this are your favourites where you can bookmark individual shows, such as Doctor Who. Click on a favourite and in one screen you can see upcoming episodes, set reminders, view Catch Up options and see similar upcoming TV shows and movies that you might enjoy.
Below Favourites, the My TV menu lists Recommended For You, Catch Up and Our Picks, after which it breaks content down into categories such as News, Sport, Drama, Movies, Documentaries and Children's.
Easier to use
To be fair these options were previously buried away in sub-menus, but My TV puts them all at your fingertips. The new interface is also better at highlighting and explaining the advanced features like favourites and reminders, which means viewers are more likely to use them and in turn My TV will become even more useful.
Admittedly it's hard to get too excited about free-to-air television these days, but the new-look FreeviewPlus makes it easier to find the cream of the crop. If you've never bothered with the green button Freeview EPG on your television, it's worth taking a look.
What do you watch on free-to-air television and what do you want from an onscreen guide?