I have subscriptions to Netflix and NOW TV. The former is well-known. For those unfamiliar with the latter, it’s a kind of on-demand Sky, without signing up to full Sky. I mostly subscribed to it for a season of Game of Thrones, reasoning that the entire series through NOW TV would cost less than the DVDs, and there would be other things to watch. Said other things have led to the NOW TV subscription remaining active.
However, in using both services, you can see the differences between a market leader entirely reliant on everything working well, and a challenger doing so with only half an eye on the game. Netflix may have its quirks, but it’s a broadly usable, stable and reliable service. NOW TV, on the other hand, ranges from reasonable to outright user-hostile.
Despite being running for years, NOW TV lacks subtitles. And when you watch shows, there are channel stings throughout. Nothing boosts the tension or excitement in a show as much as abruptly seeing the FOX or Sky Atlantic logo twice in a row. Additionally, NOW TV frequently fails to connect, and the third-gen Apple TV app remains atrocious, ignoring even the bare basics of providing a list of recently watched shows. To get to a new episode, you therefore go to one of the vague categories, scroll until you reach the show you want, flick through to the most recent season, and then scroll to pick the latest episode. Rubbish.
Today, I received an email stating that NOW TV’s throwing another curveball. Children’s channels Nickelodeon and Nick Jr are being carved off and turned into part of a separate ‘Kids Month Pass’. The Disney Channel is also vanishing from the standard Entertainment Month Pass, for other reasons. In return for all this, a new channel is arriving in their place… Nat Geo Wild.
This all strikes me as cynical. Any parent knows how useful streaming services can be, but at least with Netflix you’re not expected to double your outlay. In combination with all the other problems, it makes me wonder what NOW TV’s end game is. It’s almost like a Netflix mole is in charge of NOW TV, and enters every meeting screaming “How can we ensure our product is worse than theirs?” while baffled but loyal underlings nod along.