How our viewing habits have changed. Just a few years ago, the idea of watching TV on your phone seemed alien, but now you can’t board a train without seeing hordes of people staring at their mobiles to binge their way through the latest boxset or catch up on live news.
What with Netflix, Now TV, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and more available, the TV app space is certainly a crowded market. Enter TVPlayer, an app that combines live terrestrial channels with catch-up and – for a fee – pay-TV channels like History and Eurosport.
But is it any good? Let’s find out.
Free vs paid for
TVPlayer comes in two iterations: free and paid for.
The free version gives you 75 channels to watch live, including all the terrestrial ones, Spike, CNN, QVC, Bloomberg and BBC News.
Pony up £5.99 a month for TVPlayer Plus, and you’ll get 30 extra pay-TV channels, including MTV, Lifetime, Gold, History and Eurosport.
The free version comes with unskippable adverts, however, just like music streaming service Spotify’s free tier. Pay the monthly fee, and you won’t see any adverts at all.
The TVPlayer screen is split into four tabs: Featured, Live TV, Catch Up and TV Guide.
Select Live TV, and you can watch live just as if you were sitting in front of the telly in your lounge. The feed is quick to start, and while the picture looks a bit grainy for the first couple of seconds, it soon sharpens up and maintains the quality for the duration.
We did have one issue when watching live TV, however. After about 20 minutes, we noticed the lip sync was out. A quick restart fixes the issue though, and it wasn’t a problem during short viewing sessions.
The Featured page brings together highlights as chosen by TVPlayer. While useful, it would be nice to be able to personalise this page, or have the app learn what type of shows you like. At the moment, it feels like a random selection thrown together in the hope of being of interest.
The Catch Up section splits shows into categories like Entertainment, Factual etc, and you can search for a specific show using the search bar. By default, shows in the All category are presented in alphabetical order, and there’s no way to order them by channel.
You also can’t search by name (so you can’t search for Richard Hammond to find his show ‘Science of Stupid’, for example).
But perhaps the biggest omission of all is the lack of terrestrial catch-up services. There’s no BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All4 or Demand 5. That means if you want to watch any terrestrial shows on catch-up, you’ll have to open the dedicated app.
The TV Guide section is very clearly laid out and easy to read. Just scroll forward to see what’s coming up, and you can scroll back to see what you’ve missed, too. If you get lost with all this scrolling, just hit the Now button in the bottom right-hand corner and it’ll bring you back to the present.
There’s another omission: You can’t play a show that you’ve missed from within the TV Guide. Obviously this isn’t possible for terrestrial channels, seeing as their catch-up services aren’t included. But it would be a nice addition for channels like Dave, whose shows are available through the UKTV Play app. Especially for paying customers.
£5.99 a month can also get you the basic subscription to Netflix, which you can watch on your phone or tablet. Netflix has a very different selection of content – there’s a lot less reality TV and British-made shows, and more lushly-produced original series like ‘House of Cards’ and ‘Stranger Things’.
You can also watch anything on Netflix at any time – there are no schedules to stick to, as everything is available on-demand.
If you’re not sure which service would be right for you, both offer a free trial period. But remember to cancel before it ends to prevent being charged.
Sky’s Now TV is another option. It offers catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and All4, and you can buy ‘Passes’ that give you bundles of channels. £6.99 a month gets you the entertainment channels, offering US dramas like ‘Billions’ and ‘The Walking Dead’, as well as over 250 Box Sets available on-demand.
Again, we’d advise perusing the selection and seeing if it’s right for you. And again, you can try a month for free before deciding.
TVPlayer is a slick and easy-to-use app that brings together over 100 channels in one place. But it’s not perfect.
It’s missing key usability features that would make it much more tempting. And in our opinion, the selection of content on offer isn’t as compelling as Netflix or Now TV.
Hence we can’t recommend it over its similarly-priced rivals.