Sky have been expanding their Now TV offering with a fantastic Entertainment Pass. The Now TV app is on demand and live programming from Sky without having to sign up to a huge contract, or get dish-shaped things installed on the side of your house. They’ve got sports and movies, but it’s the entertainment package that has really caught my eye.
For £4.99 a month (introductory price, we’ll have to see what it goes up to later), you get access to some of Sky’s entertainment channels, with a mix of full series on demand, selected catch up shows, and as mentioned, live coverage. The price is good, for now, matching Netflix, and it’s a similar service with different content inside.
It’s tricky to know which shows are available in what format – I was particularly sold on the Ugly Betty catch up, with all four series of the show available to watch as and when. We discovered Stephen Merchant’s Hello Ladies, an excellent/cringeworthy show I’d never heard of before and is being released on a weekly basis as it airs on more traditional TV. There are some things I’d like to watch but have missed the start of, and the only episodes available on demand are a handful from the middle of the series. The live coverage can also be hit and miss, with things like the Simpsons not available. The Disney Channel plays live but has few on-demand offerings. The abc programmes are only on demand with no live channel.
Even with the slight confusion, however, such easy access to these channels is great. Sky 1 has always been a distant dream until now. The channels available are:
- Sky 1
- Sky Living
- Sky Atlantic
- Comedy Central
- Sky Arts
- Discovery Channel
- Disney Channel
- abc studios
As you might imagine with Sky, the process for signing up is difficult. I tried to do it on the iPad with the app, where it just says you need to sign in. It doesn’t tell you how to get a sign in or link you anywhere you might find useful. I went to the site to log in, but the process doesn’t work via iOS and the Twitter support chaps said they recommend using a desktop.
There are a couple of issues with the app that make the TV/setup box experience that much better. Search is just ridiculous – where you would think finding a series would be useful, instead they list every single episode and not necessarily in order. I was looking for the first episode of the third series of Ugly Betty, and it was right at the bottom of a very long list.
When I started watching the programme, I took two minutes out to switch to another app, and then when I returned, I’d been kicked out to the menu. I had to go through the whole search process again. It does remember where you are in a show, and does relay that information between devices, but it’s a pain. I think it’s something to do with their checking on how many devices you’re playing things on, and not sharing the content in too many directions. God forbid.
As always, it seems like Sky are really good at owning all the best content, but really not so good at distributing it. They’re making strides in the right direction though. The super-cheap set-top box is a snip at just a tenner, and that opens up the possibilities to a lot more people (although all they’ve really done is take a Roku box and take their nearest competitors Netflix off it).