With the future of linear TV – where the viewer watches a scheduled programme at the time and place it’s being presented – very much open to debate, one thing that can’t be argued with is the growing public adoption of TV on Demand.
Whereas ten years ago it was a choice between viewing live, recording, or missing out, nowadays we can watch our favourite programmes whenever – via the internet, Smart TV, or set-top box; and wherever – thanks to mobile TV on Demand apps; all without the hassle of being in the right place at the right time, or remembering to set the recorder.
Although there are numerous services and apps by which to view on demand content available to the consumer, we’ve chosen four from the major UK TV providers. So how do they perform when it comes to usability?
BBC iPlayer usability
- Well presented, simple to use interface
- Consistent user experience across all platforms
- Downloads available (30 day time limit)
- Useful features such as ability to favourite content and set a series link
- Content only available for 7 days after broadcast – or, in some instances, the run time of a series
- TV and Radio no longer available as a combined app
- Radio app now geared to live broadcasts
Verdict: Long regarded as the best when it comes to usability, the combination of simple presentation, intuitive UI, and consistent user experience makes this elder statesman of TV on Demand the usability standard to which the young pretenders should aspire.
4OD (Channel 4) usability
- Massive archive of streamable content – no time limit
- Download content to your device from the previous 30 days worth of broadcasts
- Range of features including: playlists, favourites, reminders for when new episodes become available
- Optimised site navigation for full screen viewing
- Lacks 3G/4G streaming support
- Requires registration
- Infuriating amount of ad breaks with no fast forward option
- Android app optimised for Nexus and Galaxy devices, so performance may vary across other hardware
- Reports of bugs and instability on both Android and iOS
Verdict: The requirement to initially register details, combined with a bug that signs people out, meaning they have to log in again, poses a very real obstacle to usability and creating a good user experience.
ITV Player usability
- Fast, user friendly interface that performs well in both horizontal and vertical screen orientations
- Wide range of content, available up to 7 days from broadcast (a charge applies thereafter)
- Registration required
- No HD – heavy compression leads to loss of fidelity
- Overwhelming reports of the app freezing mid-stream
- No skip option for ads (a monthly subscription option does away with these)
Verdict: The reports of continual freezing, coupled with mandatory advertising, has created a usability issue where users are forced to again sit through ads, once they’ve resumed play.
Sky Go usability
- Vast library of content
- Informative, easy to use UI (stripped down, touch-enhanced version of the desktop editions)
- Content easily browsable via categories and search box
- Subscription only – tied to your Sky TV package
- Downloads only available through Sky Go Extra subscription
- Streaming via 3G can have pixilation issues
- Lack of support across some Android platforms
- Only available to two devices per account, at a time
Verdict: The interface, intuitive navigation, and content available, makes it a decent choice if you already use Sky’s TV service. However, making users subscribe again for downloadable content, and limiting the service to two devices only, highlights the failings of a company that values financial gain over user experience.