Posted on03 April 2017 3:03 AM GMT

Now TV Lagging Far Behind for User Experience

youtubeVideo StreamingApple TVNetflixDigital TelevisionNow TVAmazon VideoStreaming ServicesOnline TVAmazon Fire TVBBC iPlayerITV HubChannel 4 All 4+-
2017AfBlgNowTVFail700

I use 8 different streaming services fairly regularly - Amazon Prime Video / Fire TV, Apple TV, BBC iPlayer, Channel 4 All 4, ITV Hub, Netflix, Now TV, and YouTube of course!

 

I use the various mobile and TV apps, widgets and boxes, but since I spend most of the time working or organising on my Desktop, this is the primary access point / device for most of those services.

 

My browser of choice is Chrome, followed by Firefox; I will then use Safari at a push, but am loathe to go anywhere near Internet Explorer as I’ve had so many issues with it over the years. So I pretty much catch most of my viewing on Chrome, and initially was able to access all service that way (bar Apple). However, Now TV made the bizarre decision fairly early on to use the poorly supported Microsoft Silverlight engine as their streaming technology of choice. It has been a good while since Now TV could be viewed on Chrome. I did not mind overly - having to switch to Firefox for that service, but just last week, Now TV is no longer supported on Firefox either, I tried Safari (for PC) - but there were so many glitches and issues that I was compelled to make use of my least preferred browser.

 

While all of this is poor in and of itself, the actual user interface and experience is equally riven with inconsistencies and oddities. The system is forever logging you out in the most clunky manner; and when I login, I need to go via my Account screen to get to the Highlights Menu. I totally fail to understand why it’s so hard to get to the overview screen. And then how long it takes to access each individual media file - you view an obvious ’getting licence’ process which is the Internet circa 10 years ago. Now TV is forever logging you out, hiding content from you, and making you wait an inordinate amount of time to actually view that content - wait for it to clear licence check, load up etc.

 

When you pay extra for a day’s or week’s sports pass, you click on a button to view say Arsenal vs Man City, but once the transaction goes though it does not open up on the actual program / option you selected, but on Sky Sport News - and you have to click all the way back up the menu to watch your program of choice. It’s as if it’s all actually being operated by small elves who have to travel from one side of an imaginary huge warehouse to another - and individually check and load up each file - they are all kept within the same pen and must navigate out from that one sam location every time - that must be the reason why it is all so linear and takes so long.

 

I keep being asked via email to feed back on said service, and I have done so a few times now, but the whole thing is little changed in all these years I have used it. Netflix and Amazon - similar commercial services operate so much more fluidly and seamlessly that they wholly put Now TV to shame.

 

I also find Channel 4 All 4 clunky compared to ITV (both ad-supported services) - Channel 4’s ad technology is far more likely to glitch out and give you content loading issues. You seem to end up watching way more ads than you need to on Channel 4 streaming - and every time there is a glitch you are forced to watch another 3-minutes worth of ads - which is excruciating and does not encourage legitimate viewing practices.

 

For Now TV - most of those media files have come straight from the satellite broadcast version and feature useless mini idents at several junctures within each episode - often interfering unnecessarily with the flow of the episode you are watching - interrupting the action and narrative - and you are actually paying for an ad-free experience - which is what you get on Netflix and Amazon.

 

Of all the different streaming services I use, none seem to leave you more frustrated than Now TV - even on just a basic level. Channel 4 certainly need to fix their advertising engine - so that you don’t suffer endless ad repeats owing to their own technical failings.

 

Now TV actually has a brilliant inventory of programs (including HBO), yet is so often way too obscure to get into the content - i.e. browse into categories and content. If I want to view something quickly - I always turn to Netflix first, then Amazon - and Now TV - a very distant third in that scenario. The people at Sky have for long now had superb benchmark references for streaming services - how the interface should work, and the service best operate - BBC iPlayer is amazing, YouTube is amazing, how Apple TV menus work is amazing. And even though Now TV on Apple TV is much improved from its desktop equivalent, it is still far from perfect, and far behind Netflix, Amazon and Apple’s own video services - even though Apple too can be clunky.

 

The Now TV service does not look like it has had sufficient ongoing investment in updates, as it is visibly cracking at the seams currently. The fact that the service now only works properly on the least popular browser is kind of inexcusable for a contemporary commercial streaming service - people are paying for the experience, and while the content is pretty good, the current experience is anything but.

 

With all the money Sky have put into Sky Q, you would have though they could have spared just a little for its online equivalent little brother. I fear that they may phase out Now TV for an entirely different unnecessarily more expensive replacement service - when they really should have sorted out the fundamentals years ago ...

Stefan
Posted by Stefan
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