I thought I’d try Channel Nine’s Catchuptv file downloading and sharing service to watch the first 4 episodes of Banal Road. I did try, and it failed repeatedly. These are some of the errors:

  • Instructions assume all users have PCs and the Mac references are inconsistent and confusing
  • The link to the Mac version of the Hiro codec is difficult to find, as other bloggers have also found
  • Nine’s own press on the system is pathetic, vague and misleading
  • The website of the company Hiro, whose software powers catchuptv, looks like rubbish on Firefox for mac
  • Hiro uses spyware to monitor plays so you have to be online to play files, which is stupid
  • You have to register with Hiro and it does not explain how, why, what. It does ask some invasive questions

hiro1 Nine's Hiro catchup implementation is a failureThe Hiro spyware registration window

  • It does not inform you honestly that you are being monitored, and provides a lame excuse in the FAQ for why you have to be online
  • The catchup FAQ does not explain how to set up a firewall or port forwarding to make Hiro work
  • At least in my case Hiro does not work. Maybe the firewall doesn’t like it. Maye it conflicts with Perian or other Quicktime components I have installed
  • Most likely, it seems that Quicktime does not recognise the Hiro component as a legitimate plugin or codec
  • My former fellow PhD student colleague Tama points out that the file is badly formatted at a 4:3 aspect ratio rather than the correct 16:9, so it plays in Quicktime horizontally compressed. How amateurish is that?

hiro2 Nine's Hiro catchup implementation is a failureThe badly formatted video with stupid nonsensical instructions (from a mac user’s point of view)

So what do I get? I get the intro then audio only with a layer giving me instructions that conflict with the written instructions elsewhere in their website.

I give up. If a mac geek cannot make it work most punters won’t either. The service is crap, the need to be online and be monitored is unacceptable, and the Microsoft-centric technology requirements are anachronistic and lame. What if I want to catch up on some Tv while on the long flight from Melbourne to Perth? I can’t watch the file on my iPod and I can’t be online if I try to watch it on my MacBookPro. It’s not flexible. It’s pathetic.

I did some quick googling but no one seems to be torrenting Banal Road. The Pirate Bay is empty. Mininova has nothing. Surely the new media tech heads at Nine know that they should seed it themselves? Or are they too afraid of being accused of astroturfing?

Nine claim in their PR to allow people to redistribute the files after downloading them. But there’s not much point in seeding a file you can’t play and which other people will have difficulty playing. Not to mention undermining your file sharing reputation by offering crap 4:3 files. I’m so underwhelmed by all this and I hope it fails.

Let me know when the hack is released to play these MP4 AC3 in an AVI container files in VLC. Until then, I’ll record the HD episodes in lovely 16:9 and watch them later so I can skip the ads. Fuck you nine.msn and your mediocre absurdity.

Nine’s Hiro catchup implementation is a failure

4 thoughts on “Nine’s Hiro catchup implementation is a failure

  • 27 April 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Agree – I can’t for the life of me how to get this stupid hiro to work. Have these guys even tested this with everyday users???

  • 5 May 2008 at 10:38 pm

    Good article. Couldn’t agree more. What a waste of time Hiro is and what a bunch of losers Channel 9 are. It’s a safe bet these guys won’t survive the shift to online content.

  • 12 May 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I just stumbled onto your site, as I was searching for some insight into the Hiro ratio problem using Quicktime on a mac.

    It’s all working (technically speaking) for me except the ratio…. how annoying.

    I will always try to support original Australian drama. This service should have provided a fair alternative to using torrent networks. Instead it seems I won’t be watching the series at all.

    Cheers Nine.

  • 12 May 2008 at 7:01 pm

    Just to add – I am trialling the ABC playback system at the moment – Nine needs to be concerned. Streaming ‘east of everything’ full screen with only the occasional stutter… very nice.


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