Books written by Ray Sullivan

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Is BT Vision Seeing the Future?

Apologies, but this is going to be one of those blogs that is relevant mainly to UK readers, although I often find that whenever I make that assumption I get more hits from across the pond than for my more international articles.  Curiosity, I presume.  Maybe it's my accent.

Anyway, I'm a self confessed moving image technophobe and, it must be acknowledged, a cheapskate of almost professional standing.  Consequently I  haven't invested much in the way of securing additional TV channels.  To be fair, and this is probably more of a reflection on me, with the advent of digital programming and the multitudinous free to air terrestrial channels that slip down my aerial every day and night (90 odd at the last count) I haven't really felt the need to invest in extra-terrestrial technologies.  Which given I'm a Sci-Fi writer probably seems a little unadventurous, but if I wanted my house to look like a miniature version of Jodrell Bank I'd have moved to Congleton down the road.

However I decided to see if I could get a better deal from BT (British Telecom) who I've used for my landline and broadband for the last ten years.  It was their fault, actually, they sent me an offer that looked like it would let me phone for virtually free.  It wasn't as good a deal as it sounded, but that would appear to be a trend with BT.

Now they've been plugging a service that uses broadband to push TV programming via your router for some time - you know, glossy advertising on the TV and in every letter they sent me.  It's called BT Vision. However trying to get to the nitty gritty of what BT Vision offers has proven harder than it ought to be, so that's the purpose of this blog.

Anyway, I phoned up BT and challenged them to improve my phone bill and was offered a small discount per month on my fixed costs, about a fiver, a doubling of my broadband from a notional 40 MPS download to an even more notional 80 - for clarity, it has about doubled but wasn't anywhere near 40 in the first place.  Still, it was and is much better than at work where we post letters as they arrive faster than emails on the company intranet!  BT also threw in BT Vision for  year, explaining that this was saving me £5 a month (or £60 a year).  Mind you, I had to pay £49 to activate my 'free' BT Vision (it's offered at ten pounds less for new customers, so much for loyalty).  At least the hard drive recorder is free, I guess. So I gave it a go and a couple of weeks ago plugged everything in and tried it out.

Here's the headlines for anyone who is thinking of choosing BT Vision.  You get all the normal freeview channels that you can get on your digital TV and/or existing hard drive recorder.  You also get access to the BBC iPlayer and the commercial channel equivalents.  So no more hooking up the laptop to the TV or watching missed programmes on a laptop.  Essentially it makes your TV into a nearly smart TV - I haven't found a way to use it to surf the Internet yet and suspect that functionality won't be there, because if it was everyone would just surf to Lovefilm and BT Vision would be dead in the water.

It also gives you access to pay-per-view programming.  If you're on the £5 a month tariff this works out quite expensive with pretty normal programming material running at £1.10 per episode.  Did I mention I'm a Cheapskate?  Don't ask about the price of films!  There is a more expensive option, about £14 a month, and that gives you free access to all of the pay-per-view programming as far as I can see, but to be honest there isn't anything there that you can't get from Lovefilm, and Lovefilm has a lot more on top.

So, if I discount the 'activation charge' against the monthly payments I've still saved a fiver a month, I've gained a hard drive recorder (not sure if that goes back if I cancel at the end to the 12 month lock in period, I'm fairly certain it won't work without a subscription though), I've converted my TV into a halfway house smart-ish TV and will still need to use the laptop to view Lovefilm, because I'm blowed if I'm paying £1.10 an episode.  In 12 months time, unless we discover something really mind-blowing about BT Vision, we'll dump it and probably look at a smart TV (or whatever is ruling the roost in a year's time).

If anything else rears its head in that period, then I'll update this entry.


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