Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been playing with the BT Vision Player on YouView.
The Player is available to BT customers who get their YouView box from BT and purchased this way comes with a minimum-term contract and mandatory monthly £12.50 or £4.00 subscription.
But if you bought your box from a High Street or online retailer, you can enjoy the BT Vision Player on a month to month basis with a £10 subscription securing you unlimited access to the content within. You can also pay no monthly fee but then pay on a per episode basis.
To make things more tempting, BT is offering a 30 day free trial for the unlimited version.
Setting the system up is pretty simple – just ensure your YouView box is connected to your BT broadband, have it check for new available players and then order your trial via the BT website.
Once in I was disappointed with the range of content on offer – the music video section feels pretty scatter-gun with only a small selection of videos available for many acts, while the range of TV content feels far smaller than offered by rivals such as Netflix.
The Player app itself is nicely designed and easily navigated and information is clearly laid out but I’m not sure I was meant to come away thinking the app design was the best part of the service?
However these are early days and BT has been announcing a raft of content deals which should hopefully see the selection drastically improved over the next few months.
During the writing of this article, it launched a new British Museum on demand ‘channel’ which appealed to me far more than the chance to re-watch various old sitcoms and US crime shows I deliberately missed the first time around.
The key to success is going to be finding the widest possible range of content owners happy to lock themselves within the BT Player rather create their own apps in the general YouView on demand section.
Even within the success story of the Player app there are some shortcomings that need addressing.
During my trial period the on demand films section displayed a Film4 icon which couldn’t be selected. Presumably no content from that provider was available that week – but why not hide empty sections rather than create an impossible task for the user?
This is just the first of a number of customer unfriendly aspects of the service that I encountered.
Firstly it’s impossible to just browse the content selection without signing up for either the PAYG or monthly fee options. Surely BT would attract more paying customers if they could have a ‘sneak peak’ before going through the order process?
Part way through my free trial I decided there wasn’t enough on offer to justify the £10 per month fee so I called BT to give my 30 days notice.
A very friendly team member advised that if I cancelled the service before my free trial ended there would be no charge and no need to give notice. So that’s what I agreed to do.
Shortly after the call ended I received an email confirming my cancellation but the email is designed for customers cancelling BT’s legacy Vision product. As you can see, it lists a number of services and products that will stop, including my non-existent BT Vision PVR and makes reference to my potential need to return “some BT kit”.
YouView is sold as a way of simplifying VOD content for the less tech-ware, BT’s reference to returning imagined kit isn’t going to help with that agenda. Surely they can create an email template specific to the service in question?
Even though I cancelled before my next bill was produced a charge for the coming month was still added to my account. BT later removed this and explained the bill was created based on services active on the billing date and that their system ignores the fact that a service is due for cancellation a couple off days later.
No real harm done but also not very convenient for the customer and something BT should work to resolve.
The most baffling thing is that once the £10 unlimited service is cancelled your access to the Player is blocked. To gain access on a PAYG basis you have to sign back up via the BT website.
Surely the default should be to roll customers over to the PAYG option so they can rent shows as wanted and pay for the occasional Box Office film?
Content tastes vary so wildly that it’s impossible to judge whether BT’s Vision Player is a worthwhile buy, and the 30 day free trial offers everyone a long enough period to try the service and decide for themselves.
But the service’s user friendliness is shockingly poor – unclickable icons, irrelevant emails and an almost craven desire to lock potential customers out of the app without making them jump through hoops means there’s plenty of room for improvement here.
A BT team member has ben in touch to say that customers cancelling the Unlimited package should be switched to the PAYG option as standard, avoiding the need to have the service stopped entirely and then order the new package.