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Can Blinkbox Shake Up The UK Online Digital Marketplace?

Blinkbox is a small up-and-coming streaming service for television programming and movies. It has had a few growing pains over the years, but the popular budget telco ISP TalkTalk just purchased Blinkbox from supermarket giant Tesco in January 2015 making it a great time test the waters and enjoy their non-subscription programming – if you live in the UK. It’s quite possible the service will expand throughout Europe in the coming years, but currently the service is available to UK customers only.

how good is blinkbox

What is Blinkbox?

They’re a unique UK streaming service that offers the latest and greatest television shows and movies. You’ve probably heard empty statements like this before and are now thinking: “Yeah, right. The latest shows and movies. Season 1 of Vikings isn’t a new show buddy. And nobody’s watched Caddyshack since the late 80’s!”

Yep, we’ve been messed about with by plenty of streaming service providers who use terms like “latest” and “most recent” then offer up 2 and 3 year old shows and movies that haven’t been popular since the 80’s and 90’s.

Blinkbox is actually quite different from its rivals?

If you’re familiar with Sky TV’s streaming service, you know they take the current content playing on their satellite channels and offer it online with Sky TV. This is great for catching up on your favorite shows if you’re not near your home satellite, or if you don’t have satellite access at all but still want to watch Sky TV programming online.

Blinkbox takes this business model just a step further though. They offer ALL the latest episodes of ALL your favorite shows, regardless of what network they’re played on. They all offer ALL the latest Bluray quality movie releases from ALL the big studios in the UK and United States (“ALL” is in caps for effect.)

We’ll get more into the available selection in just a bit.

What Sets Blinkbox Apart From its Competitors?

Well, there isn’t likely to be a new show or movie you want to watch that isn’t available on their network. They’re also not a subscription service. No contracts. Watch what you want when you want, without the guilt that comes from having a Netflix subscription you’re paying for but not using.

The one caveat to the service is that everything is pay-per-use. Pricing info is show further down the page, but it’s important to keep in mind that they aren’t necessarily trying to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Now TV – among many other contenders in the streaming industry.movie magic

This platform is perfect if you know exactly what you like to watch and don’t like the hassle of paying for a monthly subscription just to have access to thousands of TV shows, movies, and documentaries (most of which are dated) that you’ll never watch. Not to mention that UK subscribers of any of the big American-owned streamers tend to get the royal shaft when it comes to selection, compared to that offered to US and Canadian subscribers.

Blinkbox is right on par with iTunes, both in selection and price. However, you don’t need an Apple device to use this service. The Blinkbox app works on all smart devices and set-top boxes are available for one-off purchase too. Google’s Android-based “Google Play” may become a contender in the future, but as of now it doesn’t have nearly the selection offered by Blinkbox or iTunes and much of their selection is out-of-date considering Play is a pay-per-use platform (ie., they just don’t stack up).

Interface

The Blinkbox interface couldn’t get much more simple to use. There aren’t a thousand options to sift through. The navigation includes: Home, Movies, TV, My Video Library and a Search function. You can click Movie or TV to see what’s trending on their network; or click My Video Library to watch any of your previous purchases, which are always stored in your digital locker. The search function, as you can imagine, allows you to search for specific titles. Each category has filters that allow you to find titles based on genre, bestseller, or latest.

interface image

Once you select a title the purchase price will be removed from your credit or debit card automatically, with no hidden charges (https://support.blinkbox.com/hc/en-gb/articles/202263406-Available-payment-methods)

Just a note about the Blinkbox apps for iPad and Android devices. Using Blinkbox on your iPad currently only allows for playback of purchases contained in your digital locker, meaning no new purchases if you’re away from your PC, TV or other devices. The Android app is tops though, with access to all the features available on your account.

Resolution Quality

This is the one problem with Blinkbox. Even though they have the best available selection when compared to the Netflix and Amazon Prime UK subscription services, Blinkbox is still streaming in 720p. This means, obviously that if you select an HD feed, you’re not really getting the true modern 1080p HD quality that many have come to expect circa 2015.

After comparing the service’s 720p feeds to the 1080p offered by Cinema Now and Wuaki.tv, it becomes obvious that even providers who claim to offer true 1080p streams don’t have their eggs in a row yet. The latter two are still often grainy when set to 1080p. This is also true of Google Play, who’s slightly better, but nowhere up to par with iTunes who have the very best 1080p streaming available online currently.

The quality with Blinkbox is still super clear and a true 720p resolution, and will only continue to get better now that the service is actually owned by a telcom, with a strong base in technology and the infrastructure already in place to support high quality streaming.

Selection

This is where Blinkbox really shines. They have distribution deals in place with over 50 worldwide studios for the use of original movie and television content. The list includes BBC Worldwide, Sony Pictures, HBO, Warner Bros, Disney, 21st Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Revolver Entertainment, All3Media and Aardman Animations. This is a who’s who of content producers, meaning you’re sure to get all the best in entertainment available at the click of a mouse.

Here’s the real kicker, the “coup de gras” that Blinkbox has over its competitors. Because of these exclusive deals, they’re one of a few streaming services worldwide (the only one in the UK) that not only offers DVD and Bluray releases on the same day they’re available in stores; but they quite often get the rights to pre-release certain titles. Check out the coming soon page on Blinkbox to see the latest upcoming releases: http://blinkbox.com/movies/coming-soon

To give you an idea of the quality of some of these pre-release features, here’s a few recent titles that were released days and even weeks in advance of retail: Fury, Night Crawler, 71, Predestination, The Equalizer, Assassin, and Hunting Season. This is a great mix of both US and UK produced flix and there are many more. We’ve seen various titles available up to 2 weeks in advance of their official release date.

There’s no sense in laying out the television programming for you here. If you want the latest in American and UK programming, you’ll find it on Blinkbox. New shows are available the day they air, older shows are available whenever you want to catch up. The pricing for complete seasons and series’ box sets on Blinkbox are, as mentioned before; the very best among all pay-per-use providers in the UK. Check out the entire selection right here: http://www.blinkbox.com/tv

Devices

You can use Blinkbox on pretty much any device other than the PS4 currently: most modern Blurays, Xbox 360, PS3 and smart TVs from Samsung, Toshiba, LG, and Philips. Samsung smart TV’s built after 2010 all have the Blinkbox app pre-installed and ready to use, while the others listed require you to install the app yourself. The list of smart TVs will continue to grow over the next year or two.

devices

Currently apps are available for tablet devices only on iOS, Android and Windows. No smartphones can support the app currently but let’s face it, watching TV on a smartphone is bollocks anyhow, no matter how desperate you are for entertainment.

Device Registration

Blinkbox makes it easy to register or de-register devices from your account. You can register up to 5 devices able to gain access to your Blinkbox digital locker at any time. It’s super-easy to swap devices too: As soon as you try to register a sixth device, a pop-up will ask you if you want to remove one of the other registered devices. You can switch out 3 devices every 90 days, or one per month. Easy-peezy!

Pros:

  • No waiting for release dates: As soon as a show or movie is available, Blinkbox will have it waiting for you to purchase online. Going with a subscription service like Netflix, you have to wait for network television shows to wrap up each season, then wait and wait for the streamer to gain access to the seasons of the show. Movies? Forget about watching new, movie-studio-produced pictures until long after they’re released for home viewing.

  • Selection: Hands down, Blinkbox blows any subscription service out of the water here in the UK. They currently have over 9000 titles available to their users. Netflix UK offers just shy of 3200 titles; Amazon UK close to 3800 titles. Even Netflix US is behind Blinkbox’s offering, with less than 8000 titles (many of them dated).

  • Pay-as-you go: No monthly service fees or extra charges for shows or movies that aren’t included in the monthly service plan agreement.

  • Price is in-line with competition: When compared to other services like iTunes, Google Play, Cinema Now, Wuaki.tv Xbox Video and other competitors, Blinkbox offers similar pricing along with other deals you won’t find with their competitors.

  • It’s legal: Hey, when you don’t have cable or satellite TV and don’t want to blow £20 at the cinema, sometimes the temptation to pirate becomes hard for the most straight-laced among us. Blinkbox is 100% legal and you never have to worry about breaking any copyright laws.

Cons:

  • TV purchases can add up: If you’re frequently purchasing new episodes of your favorite shows as they’re released, £2 per episode can really add up. You can wait a year or two for the subscription services to release entire seasons for free included with your monthly service.

  • No 1080p or 4K option: Let’s face it, few streaming services are offering 4K viewing, other than Netflix, Amazon Prime and a couple others. And those who are only offer this option for select programming. It would be nice to see Blinkbox evolve to 1080p soon, as it’s the current standard.

  • Other HD limitations: Sadly, for some strange reason only PC’s and Xbox 360’s can play full HD with Blinkbox. Other devices are limited to standard definition. This is also an issue with other pay-as-you-go’s like Wuaki.tv and Cinema Now, however.

  • No 5.1 audio: This is pretty much where all streamers are at right now. Stereo only sound for Blinkbox users. Keep in mind that much like the resolution limitations, the services who offer Dolby quality sound only do so with certain selections.

  • No smartphone apps available: This will change soon, we’re sure. However, why would anyone want to watch a show or movie on a 4 – 5 inch screen anyhow?

Pricing

You only pay for what you want. There are no monthly or yearly service charges. Blinkbox isn’t really cheaper than other pay-per-use streamers like iTunes, Wuaki.tv, or Cinema Now. Their fees are all pretty much the same.

Wuaki.tv and Cinema Now both offer slightly cheaper rates for streaming their television programming in HD (£1.99), but neither offers entire boxed sets of shows like you’ll find on Blinkbox (with a considerable discount over buying them individually). Neither competitor is known for offering deals on recently released movie titles like Blinkbox either. The price to purchase SD and HD movies are all on par between the major players.

Blinkbox Pricing (2015)

Television Shows

£1.89 SD / £2.49 HD

Entire Seasons

~ £14.99 – £25 HD

Movie Rentals

£3.49 SD / £3.49 HD

Movie Purchases

£10.00 SD / £13.99 HD

You’ll note that there’s no rental/purchase comparison for television shows. Once you make a purchase, the show is saved to your Blinkbox cloud storage locker and remains there forever. This is the same if you purchase an entire season or buy a movie release – they’re yours, conceivably, forever. Older boxed sets for television shows are always cheaper than current ones.

The more popular the show, the higher it will be in the price range listed above – typically in the £20 range. For instance the last three seasons of Sons of Anarchy are currently selling for £19.99 while the first four seasons are only £14.99.

Movie rentals work much the same way as other one-off streaming services: You have 30 days to watch the movie and 48 hours to finish watching once you start, before the rental expires. Therefore, even if you start watching the movie on day 30, Blinkbox gives you an additional 48 hours before the rental is removed from your locker.

You’ll find that there are constant deals being offered too, including early-bird deals on new movie releases and discounts on television shows showing up on occasion (but not as much as the movie deals).

Currently, since the service was owned by Tesco up until Jan 2015, your Tesco Club card gets you a point earned for every £1 spent with Blinkbox. It’s hard to say how long this incentive will last, considering the change of hands, and the fact that Tesco needed to make the sale because they were in financial trouble (why would they continue to offer further discounts forever to a service that they lost money on, right?)

Should You Try Blinkbox and Do They Offer a FREE Trial?

Yes, you definitely should.

And here’s why:

There’s no subscription needed, meaning that if you don’t use it, it won’t cost you any money. Blinkbox is best for discerning TV and movie watchers who know exactly what they want to watch and don’t like to wait around for the subscription service streamers to gain access to the programming. Or for movie buffs that regularly rent movies and want to enjoy the savings offered by doing it online.

The service can also make a great companion to a subscription streaming, satellite or cable service too.

If you’re concerned that you have to get rid of your Sky TV, Netflix, HBO Go, or Amazon Prime subscription, why would you? If you regularly watch the programming they provide, then you should keep them, to save over the cost of purchasing individual episodes of House of Cards (Netflix), Game of Thrones (HBO), or Hannibal (Prime), etc., that are offered exclusively by said streamers. Each service has deals in place for releasing their original content, along with select programs from the big networks.

no subscription

However, it doesn’t make sense to subscribe to any service if you only like one or two shows they offer. If Game of Thrones is the only HBO original you watch, it doesn’t make sense to pay over £10 a month just for that one show, and still have a limited movie selection to choose from. None of the monthly providers offer unlimited access to ALL the latest TV shows and certainly can’t offer you new, big-budget films as they’re released (often prior to official release dates).

Whether you just want it as a companion service to round out your television and movie viewing, or as a stand-alone because you don’t like being faced with a selection that only offers 10% worth of programming that you like to watch (much like traditional cable and satellite packages) – Blinkbox offers exactly what it says it will. No trials, no subscriptions, no hassles. Just the most up-to-date programming you want, when you want it!

Head over to their website and sign up right now: http://www.blinkbox.com/