Saturday, 08 February 2014
YouView vs Sky

2014-02-03T10-19-24_0I've been a Sky customer for over 11 years and while in the early years I didn't think much about shelling out near to £50 a month for all of the channels through the years, I realised how wasteful that had been seeing as I didn't watch most of them. I began by cutting back on the channels as much as Sky would let me getting my bill to about £23 a month.

If you're a Sky customer you'll be no stranger to Sky's offers, where they'd like to give you the movies or sports package for a large discount for 6 months or more. The problem comes when trying to cancel those channels. In the past I've been on the phone to the cancellation line for almost an hour trying to drop channels and with them suffering slow systems. Sky make it very easy to add new channels you can even do this online, however the functionality to remove channels was not made available online.

Don't get me wrong I have had no other problems with Sky through the years as a service and I have found it a reliable service. I even managed to save money by learning how to service my own satellite dish without taking out a service contract. However I couldn't help but be fascinated by BT's YouView option. BT give you the option of a YouView box along with 18 other channels among them SyFy, Universal and Fox which were some of the channels we seemed to watch the most on Sky. All of this would only cost me £7 a month added onto my existing broadband package. Previously I had been put off BT's service in the past because you couldn't record these extra channels which were sent to you over your broadband connection. After an announcement was made that these channels were recordable, I took the plunge and ordered the BT TV service and ran it alongside Sky for a few months to compare them and to start recording my shows on the new box.

The comparison 
It took me a bit of getting used to the interface on the YouView box but after a while it started to make sense. It also came across as more intuitive compared to the Sky program interface, the ability to go back in time on the planner and watch shows that had already been aired was a brilliant idea. Recording shows was simple enough and so was recording a series of a show.

On Demand Shows
2014-02-03T10-45-43_0Both boxes provide on demand content and there is no competition when it comes to the latest content Sky does win hands down. That's not to say BT's "BT Player" service doesn't have an impressive catalogue however quite a lot of the on demand content is older and much of it has probably been removed from Sky's catalogue already.

But wait! Is that Sky in the On Demand section on the YouView box I see? It is indeed! So while you have access to BT Player in the On Demand section on the YouView box from BT which features all the on demand shows BT have sourced you also have access to content from BBC iPlayer, ITV, 4OD, Channel 5, MilkShake, NOW TV, Sky, Dave and S4C.

The Sky Store player in the on demand section is basically giving you access to pay per view movies from Sky. If you're looking for the latest movie releases you're more than likely going to find them in here before they reach the BT Player Box Office section. Sky Store funnily enough actually seems to work better on the YouView box than it does on Sky's own box. The Sky Store is also available separately on other services.

What about NOWTV?
NOW TV is also a service available from Sky basically providing Sky's regular content over broadband (at a price). Don't get too excited though the NOW TV player on the YouView box does not have the ability to stream live content from NOW TV as it does on their website or via the Xbox such as Sky Atlantic or Sky One but Sky does mention they are working with YouView to make this available. For now the only content you can get off NOWTV on YouView is Sky Movies. I'll be writing a separate article about NOWTV and their dedicated NOWTV Box later.

Other on Demand Content
And as usual the other on demand players such as iPlayer, itv Player etc are freely available on the YouView box as they are via a web browser on your PC. I will admit I have only made use of BBC iPlayer and 4 On Demand and have had no problems so far with the quality of the service.

Anything Else?
I have found the YouView Humax box provided by BT reliable and haven't had too many problems with it. I have only had one issue watching a SkyStore film which kept on stuttering, the issue was corrected by quickly resetting the box by holding down the power button on the front for 8 seconds.

I suppose I will find out soon enough if I will end up regretting my decision to drop Sky. Only time will tell Smile

posted on Saturday, 08 February 2014 14:28:20 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 03 July 2010
The technology push to your living room

I've been reading articles about Google TV, Microsoft, Sony, BT, Sky and (now) Apple with interest regarding their push to your living room to put content on your TV.  There's a hell of a lot of content on the web and the age old issue of watching this content conveniently on your TV instead of having to fire up browsers on your PC is a problem none of the big companies appear to have really solved.

Sure you can watch some of Sky's content on your Xbox 360 now. But you won't get all of Sky's content because of content restrictions enforced by content distributors. You also won't get 4OD, BBC iPlayer or the ITV Player on this service. In addition to that you won't get YouTube, Hulu or Joost. Basically there is not one set top box that will give you all of these services through your TV without having to switch or unplug some box out of the VGA, SCART or HDMI slot on your TV. My guess is that Google are trying to address this with their new set-top box idea. Weather it will work remains to be seen, because at the end of the day it doesn't matter how fancy your platform is, content is still king.

Content distributors also hold a lot of sway, they dictate how their content can be distributed. If a channel is distributed via the Internet and over encrypted satellite in the eyes of the content provider they are separate mediums which require separate content rights. Hence Sky's problem of only being able to broadcast some of their Sky 1 shows via SkyPlayer and blocking the channels for the duration of that show for SkyPlayer customers while satellite customers get to view it.

Likewise content providers may give the writes to distribute a show over a streaming Internet Service with the caveat that it cannot be streamed to a service that connects to a TV as this right could have been solved to a terrestrial provider. This arrangement makes things incredibly difficult while all the user wants to do is watch their TV shows in the most convenient way possible.

I wish Google TV every bit of success although I am struggling to see how they will be able to offer the content we want all through one set top box. In addition to this problem when watching a series on TV sometimes people would like to start from the beginning of a series people are all raving on about. Content providers don't make it easy to get to this content and their appears to be a high amount of people using illegal downloads via services such as Bit Torrent to get to this content. The video/TV entertainment industry appears to be out of touch with how people would like to consume their content. The same thing happened in the music industry which saw a huge shift in how music was distributed which lead to services such as Spotify.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was a service that held just about every movie, TV series, documentary that had ever been made, made available on demand? You could pay for the content per item or for a monthly fee have access to all of it?

posted on Saturday, 03 July 2010 10:42:38 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 22 December 2009
Project Canvas

The BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and TalkTalk have been given then go ahead for Project Canvas a project to enable people to watch Internet based TV on set-top box's connected to their TV's. Its a brilliant idea and one we disgruntled customers have wanted for some time. Its great content guys but I'd love to watch it on my TV screen easily instead of having to watch it on my computer screen. Yes there have been alternatives for instance Sony's PS3 openly supports and advertises that you can watch BBC iPlayer on its games console and the same service is also available on the Wii. The Xbox 360 being somewhat of a walled garden has snuggled up to Sky who also have rather good content but charge and horrendous amounts for their subscriptions to watch their on demand content on the Xbox and not all of Sky's content is available on the Xbox as it is on the PC.

So why Project Canvas? Well not all of the content from the above mentioned broadcasters Internet content are easily available on a TV as the BBC iPlayer is. Even if you do plug a PC into your TV, the usability of it still isn't as easy and seamless as it should be. The way we want to watch TV is changing we want to watch show's when we want to and not when a schedule tells us we can and the industry has been a little late giving us what we want and how we want it. The way I see it, is that Canvas isn't any different to another method of delivering content to your TV. In the past we have made use of set-top box's, the only difference with Canvas is - this set-top box gets its content over a cable, but so does Virgin Media's cable service? Ahh but we have quite a selection of broadcasters and its all on demand. Virgin Media does this to? Yes but you need a cable subscription Canvas in theory should work on anyone's Internet connection ah!

In theory Canvas should do away with the subscription model to see this content and break us away from a technology walled garden. Its no wonder BSkyB is not happy with the idea, Canvas would (if it worked) be open to all and on demand which gives it more coverage than Virgin Media's service. This threatens Sky's service which is mainly delivered over a satellite dish. Or if you are willing to pay for it get yourself an Xbox 360 and a subscription to a limited amount of their content on demand.

What I like about this partnership is that the broadband providers such as BT and TalkTalk are part of the group and can make allowances for the extra content that is being sent over their networks. This will inevitably be paid for with some paid for content being provided on this new platform.

posted on Tuesday, 22 December 2009 13:04:33 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 18 December 2008
BBC iPlayer now officially working on PS3!

After discovering that Joost works on the PS3 browser I then decided to to see if the BBC iPlayer worked in the same way and it did! The BBC iPlayer web site now detects if you have a Playstation 3 and then serves up a smaller vision of the site for the PS3. It even tells you to press the right controller in to maximise the content you are watching. I must say there were a lot less complications with it than there was with Joost, probably because the BBC kept it simple, simple works for me it means less goes wrong.

Now I know the iPlayer has been working on the Wii for a while now but its nice to see it working on the PS3 as its the only console I usually keep plugged in because it plays my Blu Ray discs, DVD's and is a lot better at playing streamed content from my Windows Media Centre PC better than my Xbox 360!

You can also see past episodes of Hero's on the iPlayer now BTW.

posted on Thursday, 18 December 2008 14:49:27 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 13 May 2008
BBC iPlayer for Freesat

Sorry for the lack of posts, I've been on holiday in the Caribbean for a week. It looks like the BBC iPlayer will soon be available on Freesat. Now what I find interesting, is that if the BBC iPlayer gets onto the Freesat service it wouldn't be too hard for Channels 4's, 4 On Demand service getting on there to. They basically use the same Microsoft DRM technology under the covers like Skys Anytime service does. BBC iPlayer is already available on Virgin Media's TV service. On demand TV is definitely the future and to be honest Sky's attempt at it from their set top box has been pretty shoddy in comparison to what Virgin and Tiscali have on offer. I have heard a rumour that Sky may be offering a better on demand service from their newer set top box's that is served over the Internet. Lets see what happens hey?

posted on Tuesday, 13 May 2008 20:50:08 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Wednesday, 09 April 2008
BBC iPlayer for the Wii

Many of you have been wishing for it and now it has finally arrived! The BBC have released a version of the iPlayer for the Wii!

I've just tried it out on my Wii console by going to the URL (using the browser on my Wii) and selecting the 6 o'clock news and within a few seconds I had the 6 o'clock news streaming through my Wii console. The only problem is, is that you have to move the browser around a bit until you can get the video to take up the full screen. It would have been nice if they had released a full screen button for the Wii version of iPlayer like they do on the Windows version.


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posted on Wednesday, 09 April 2008 21:42:14 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 12 January 2008
Xbox 360 to get on demand TV service!

Looks like Microsoft are teaming up with BT to provide BT Vision content on the Xbox!

Now it wasn't to long ago that I mentioned how perfectly suited the Xbox 360 was to such a service when I started using it to view DRM content downloaded (via my PC) from on demand services such as BBC iPlayer, 4oD and Sky Anytime. I couldn't quite figure out why Microsoft hadn't signed up a dedicated content provider or several for that matter?

What is taking place makes perfect sense there are obviously more XBox 360's in circulation than there are BT Vision box's which according to the BBC only have 100,000 customers. The only problem I can see is that BT Visions content doesn't seem all that inspiring, either that or they are just not showing all the content they really have on their web site. The other thing is that Sky seems to have most of the interesting content as far as I am concerned and no one seems to have an on demand versions of killer shows such as Hero's, Battle Star Galactica, Prison Break etc.

posted on Saturday, 12 January 2008 16:36:31 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 25 November 2007
4oD on XBOX 360 and TV over the Internet

image If you've been reading my blog you will have noticed my fascination of trying to stream content via my Xbox 360 for services provided by the BBC iPlayer, SkyAnytime PC  and now Channel 4's 4oD service (TV and Film on demand). Basically the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 all provide separate services for which you can download content off the Internet. This could be an episode of Star Gate SG1 you may have missed (Sky), Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (Channel 4) or East Enders (BBC and no I don't like it but my wife does).

What all of these technologies have in common is they all use Microsoft's DRM (Digital Rights Management). What this means is that the content provider (BBC, Sky or Channel 4) can control how long you are able to watch this content until it expires, this also controls who can watch it. All this is taken care of in the background where a licence is downloaded to your machine enabling you to watch the content. While all of these providers may appear to have different innovative interfaces, under the covers they are all really using Windows Media Player which supports DRM. The BBC got a lot of flack for not using an open source platform for doing the same thing. The truth is this method has probably worked out cheaper, as so many other providers are using the same technology its tried and tested (until someone cracks it of course).

One of the let downs I found of these services was there was no way of watching the content you missed on your TV. You had to watch it on your computer. Unless you were a bit computer savvy and knew how to plug your computer into your TV (not all TV's support this) there wasn't really much of an alterative. That was until the Xbox 360 started to be able to stream content from your Windows Media PC. I found the Xbox 360 proved to be a cheaper alternative than having a dedicated PC for watching content from the Internet on your TV. I have also found it also works well with content from Channel 4's service 4oD. The only problem I have found is that 4oD's videos are not as higher quality as those provided by Sky (this may probably change), it gives the impression of a pixilated image on my 1080i LCD screen. I think Microsoft can provide a lot more upgrades for the Xbox 360 to take advantage of this place in the market. Although I suspect they may be keeping a bit quiet about the potential because they may be thinking of a separate content deal they want to put together, so they can charge Xbox Live subscribers for the privilege.  

It looks as though no one has really taken advantage of the potential for a TV Over Internet Provider (TOIP) box that could pull all these providers together maybe even including Joost?

posted on Sunday, 25 November 2007 12:44:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 15 November 2007
ITV Broadcast live on the Internet

It appears that ITV is one of the first broadcasters in the UK to broadcast live on the Internet. Now I know the BBC and Sky have shows available to download on the net but it appears ITV are broadcasting (with a slight delay) on the Internet all of their live channels.

Now if you think about it this makes incredible sense. ITV's revenue model is based on advertising, that means the more people you have watching your TV channels the more advertisers want to advertise on your channels. Clever? Very clever indeed. Sky however does not seem to be able to follow the same revenue model. If you can get Sky Channels on the Internet why on Earth would you want to shell out £25 a month on a Sky box and dish? Mmm that's not a hard one to figure out. I think ITV are onto a winner here I just hope they get the content and shows to back it up.

posted on Thursday, 15 November 2007 21:35:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Tuesday, 23 October 2007
SkyAnytime PC on Xbox 360

Just to recap on my last article about how to watch BBC iPlayer content through your Xbox without using Media Centre I have now tested it with Sky Anytime PC and it works like a charm.

The best way to make this work is to log into Sky Anytime PC and click on the "Account & Settings"  button from here you can find the "Default Download Location", copy this and then open windows Media Player 11, click Library > Add To Library and click add to add the folder location you just copied from Sky Anytime PC. Now next time you download a file from Sky Anytime PC it will automatically be added to your Windows Media Player library. If you followed the steps in my previous article to share your library with your Xbox you should be able to now watch SkyAnytime PC content on your Xbox withut having to drag the downloaded movies into the My Movies folder.

posted on Tuesday, 23 October 2007 21:45:37 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 21 October 2007
Watching BBC iPlayer content on your XBox 360

Having recently bought an Xbox 360 I heard there was a way of streaming content from your Windows XP machine to the XBox, the reason I was particularly interested was that I had started using the BBC iPlayer and Sky Anytime PC service for watching TV programs on demand. It was great for catching up on shows I had missed or forgot to record on my Sky Plus box. The only problem I had was that it wasn't much fun watching these shows on my laptop screen when I had a 42inch LCD screen with surround sound sitting around being unused naturally the Xbox filled this chasm.

Having looked around the net many people who do not have the Media Centre edition of Windows XP do not seem to be able to stream DRM protected content to their Xbox. Well the solution to the problem is pretty simple and you don't need to use TVersity (great free program by the way).

The Solution

  1. Ensure you have Windows Media Player 11 installed you can download this from Microsoft's web site. Chances are if you have the BBC iPlayer or Sky Anytime PC installed you will already have the latest version of Windows Media Player.
  2. Click on the Library tab and select the option Media Sharing. From here tick the checkbox "Share My media to:". If you click on settings in this window you have the option to select what type of content you wish to share. Click OK to close this window.
  3. Now after you have downloaded some content from BBC iPlayer first select to watch the content. What this will do is get the licence (DRM) to allow you to view the video. No need to watch the video you can close the BBC iPlayer window.
  4. Copy the movie into your movies folder (found under my documents) and then drag it into Windows Media Player. This part is quite important I couldn't get this to work unless I carried out this step for some reason it has to be inside the Movies folders located under My Documents.
  5. On your Xbox select the media tab, select Video and then select computer. If all goes well you should see your Windows XP machine. Select your computer.
  6. Back on your Windows XP machine go back to Windows Media Player select the Library > Media Sharing over here you should see your Xbox. Select it and then select Allow and then OK. (Don't worry you only have to do this once).
  7. Go back to the Xbox and press the backup button and select the Video option again as in step 5 you should now see the video's you had placed on your Windows XP machine. Select the video and enjoy!

Now don't panic you don't need to carry out the steps above all the time. Every time you want to add a new movie try to watch it first to acquire the DRM licence then place it into Windows Media Player and then watch from the Xbox. This seems to have been the only way I could get this to work. I see no reason why the above will not work with SkyAnytime which I will be testing shortly. If you are not able to see your Windows XP machine from your Xbox backup to the media tab itself and go back in. If this doesn't work ensure your Xbox is connected to your network.

If you know of an easier way of doing this I'd love to hear from you.

posted on Sunday, 21 October 2007 19:03:07 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [6]