FreeviewPlus is terrestrial television's fight-back against the streaming on-demand onslaught that's well and truly disrupted the simple act of sitting on your ass watching telly.
Well, at least that's what I think it is. It's taken me a while to work out what, exactly, FreeviewPlus is, what it does and what it's for.
After living with it for a couple of weeks I've come to the inescapable conclusion that the point of it is to allow your partner to watch all of the many different versions of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette whenever she wants.
And believe me, she wants ...
So, that's what it's for. What it actually is ... well, that's a little trickier to nail down. It's either a fantastic model of unprecedented co-operation between warring factions or it's a service that's doomed to be forever compromised by its very nature. The best way I can describe it is as a Netflix for the free-to-air channels. FreeviewPlus, which is of course HD, acts as a kind of central hub. It provides a simple, dare I say elegant, way of navigating through the terrestrial stations' competing on-demand services that, up until now, required a mess of log-ins and web browsers to properly utilise.
With FreeviewPlus you press a button on your remote and that takes you to the main homepage. Here the most popular shows from the different channels are all jumbled together and presented.
But if an episode of Dancing With the Stars or Castle doesn't take your fancy then you can drill down by genre, alpha order or go hunting in the search box.
Once you've found something to watch, hit play and you're whisked to the programme page on the TVNZ OnDemand, 3Now or the Maori TV On Demand service.
This is because FreeviewPlus itself doesn't actually host anything. It merely compiles the available content together in a portal that shoots you off to those that do.
It's also a very good TV guide - something you'll need.
A TV guide tells you what time a show will screen. This is important info because unlike proper streaming options like Lightbox, Netflix, Quickflix or Neon that allow you to watch whatever you want, whenever you want, terrestrial stations keep you shackled to the inane chains of their viewing schedule.
The guide shows multiple channels at a time, looks eight days ahead and lets you highlight any faves and set handy viewing reminders. I won't say this feature saved my bacon, but it did keep me from missing the excellent 90s sci-fi schlock flick Species the other night.
However this is where you slam into the brick wall of its limitations. Due to what I'm assuming is the complicated legal minefield of television versus online streaming rights and not just a case of the channels being major jerks, not everything they air is available to stream.
Admittedly, the channels have improved dramatically in this space, but many shows are blink-and-miss-them affairs. You can also forget about blobbing out on an on-demand viewing binge as only the most recent couple of episodes of any given show are usually available. Unless it's a local production, then you're golden.
Streaming movies is also listed as another incentive to upgrade to FreeviewPlus but TVNZ and TV3 do not stream their films. There was a grand total of three movies available on demand, all from Maori TV.
Another bummer was discovering that TVNZ still insist on interrupting their on-demand shows with mega annoying ads that frequently crash and drop you out of whatever you're watching. This is simply unacceptable and they need to either stop it or sort it.
But this is not a FreeviewPlus problem. It does what it does well enough - although a speed boost would help considerably, it can be painfully slow - but it does really need its partners to raise their streaming game. In both available content and stability.
You should also know that your current Freeview rig cannot handle the FreeviewPlus Jandal. To get it cranking you'll need to either buy a FreeviewPlus set-top box or a whole new Smart TV that has it built in.
I can't imagine anyone rushing out to buy a standalone set-top box just for the slight extra convenience it offers so I predict its uptake will mainly occur as people slowly upgrade their sets.
FreeviewPlus does a decent job of dragging free-to-air into the modern age. It could blossom into something great, but right now it's hamstrung by those who desperately need it to succeed the most.