Ben WoodsEurope Editor
Ben is a technology journalist with a specialism in mobile devices and a geeky love of mobile spectrum issues. Ben used to be a professional Ben is a technology journalist with a specialism in mobile devices and a geeky love of mobile spectrum issues. Ben used to be a professional online poker player. You can contact him via Twitter or on Google+.
On Monday next week Channel 4 will be putting its new on-demand streaming platform All 4 live for users in the UK.
With new branding, a fully revamped platform and a view that linear live television viewing is here to stay, we took a first look around the new platform to see what it had to offer.
While All 4 is launching next week for iOS and desktop viewers, the fully updated Android app with a new design and features will roll out later in the year. It will, however, get the new All 4 branding from next week.
A three-pronged approach
In essence, the redesigned app splits all its content into three areas – On Demand, Now and On Soon.
As you might expect, the first section allows you to view shows that have already aired in the same way you would with 4oD before. On Demand highlights ‘catch up’ shows, box sets and a section called Shorts with original programming produced for 4oD.
The middle section is Now, which highlights shows you can watch live. Channel 4 didn’t previously offer live TV on mobile devices, although it did via the desktop, so this is a pretty significant step.
On Soon offers previews for upcoming shows; it features short clips and other information about programs.
The redesign makes it easier to download programs that are available for offline viewing by introducing a new icon that indicates when they’re available. Downloads are accessible via the section heading at the top of the page.
One change that users might not like – but that Channel 4 considers essential to some of the new features – is requiring you to log in. Previously, you only needed to sign-in to watch certain catch-up shows.
A Channel 4 spokesperson told TNW that not only does this allow for highly personalized content (recommendations based on shows you’ve watched, liked, saved or downloaded), it gives provides target information for advertisers. Clearly, that’s important for a business whose lifeblood is advertising revenue. Your personal details appear in a section called My 4.
Someone must have suggested ‘4Play’ as an alternative name for the service during the rebranding. I understand why Channel 4 didn’t want to balance its streaming future on a weak pun and there’s actually a good reason behind the All 4 name.
When 4oD first launched, pundits were predicting the end of linear television – watching at home in real time. They predicted that the majority of consumption would shift to on-demand. But while there have been huge games for services like Netflix, iPlayer and Amazon Prime, a significant amount of telly is still being watched as it’s broadcast.
All 4 sums up the network’s approach to its content – all of it now has a single home, whether it’s live programming, on-demand or upcoming shows. Add in an exclusivity deal with O2, and some users will be getting early access to Channel 4 shows before they’ve even been broadcast.
It’s not a redesign and overhaul that will leave you lost or confused; it’s all very familiar, in terms of categories and look, but that’s not such a bad thing; there was no real need to reinvent the service from the ground up. Making it more convenient and easier to use, however, makes a lot of sense, provided you’re happy to create a free account and sign in.
The redesign will be rolling out for everyone from Monday.
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