I subscribe to three video streaming services, primarily for access to specific shows. Enough shows exist on each platform to justify continued payment, given alternate legal options (buying series on iTunes, which remains absurdly expensive, or grabbing DVDs).
But what I find interesting about these services is that only one of them appears to heavily care about the user experience – and that’s the one that relies entirely on subscriptions for its survival.
Netflix is, for the most part, great. It’s flexible regarding payment plans, subtitles the majority of its content, and, most importantly, doesn’t bug you about shows or who supplied the content at any point. The user interface is a dog’s dinner at times, but no worse than its rivals.
NOW TV remains an ongoing disappointment, especially for Apple TV users. It appears that Sky has abandoned the platform – the Apple TV app hasn’t been meaningfully updated since launch – although NOW TV’s support staff claim otherwise (despite not offering a timescale for updates).
The service lacks subtitles, and on Apple TV has all kinds of bugs and shortcomings. You get the odd pre-roll ad for other content and, annoyingly, ident stings in the middle of every show. Nothing adds to the atmosphere of the latest Game of Thrones than seeing the HBO logo abruptly appear and animate – sometimes twice in quick succession.
Amazon Prime Video is the worst offender for me right now, though, for one key reason. Before I get to that, this is a pity sad because Amazon gets most things right. Subtitling exists (although, for some reason, needs activating for each individual item watched on my Fire TV), and although Amazon and Apple seem to be having a ridiculous spat that means there’s no Apple TV app, the impact to users is minimal since Amazon’s iOS app has full AirPlay support.
But Amazon’s tendency to shove pre-roll adverts for its original series in front of everything you fancy watching is annoying. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the Grand Tour one. I didn’t want to watch that show anyway; now, I’d like to see it eradicated with fire. But, worse, it turns out Amazon’s trailers team don’t seem to care whether they ruin your enjoyment of original series that are being advertised.
Yesterday, I watched a film on Amazon Prime. Naturally, I got to watch the Grand Tour trailer for the billionth time first. The film finished and I wanted to watch a trailer for another movie.
- Amazon: “Hey, this would be a GREAT opportunity to advertise The Man in the High Castle!”
- Trailer: “Hello! Here is a MASSIVE SPOILER regarding one of the main characters.”
- Me: “For CRYING OUT LOUD. I’m already watching this series, but hadn’t got to that bit yet, you bafflingly stupid buffoons.”
Yes, this is only a small niggle in the scheme of things, but I write about tech and media, and in the scheme of those specific things, it’s astonishing to see a company blind about users to the point of ruining their enjoyment of the very thing they’re being encouraged to watch. Worse, why can’t Amazon spot the fact I’m halfway through season one and therefore not show me spoilers for a show I’m already watching?
Mind you, this is the company that after I bought an electric toothbrush kept suggesting I buy more for the following six months.