In a week where BT and TalkTalk lost their second high court appeal against the Digital Economy Act and the Game of Thrones season one Blu-ray went on sale nine months after the show ended it has once again highlighted the need for better online video services. DSG Group thinks it has the answer…
'KnowHow Movies' is the brainchild of the Dixons and PC World owner and it aims to go head-to-head with established players like Netflix and LoveFilm. The service was announced last week and launched just a few days ago. As such content remains limited (more of which later), but the business model is compelling: no subscription, pay as you go movies and TV to rent or download, content added on the day of release and playback on up to five devices per user account.
The kicker: DSG aims to bundle KnowHow Movies content and credit with everything from smart TVs to PCs, phones and tablets. With 600 stores nationwide, 19 million customers and sales of over 4.5m connected devices each year DSG may well have the clout to make it work. So the promise is there, but is it any good?
In a word: potentially, so let's start with the positives. Despite its age still being counted in days, the KnowHow website is clean, uncluttered and easy to use (though we noticed some glitches on IE8 which DSG confirmed will be fixed soon). Content is split into 'Movies', 'TV, and 'My Library' with subcategories for 'New Releases', 'Most Popular, 'Genres', 'Special Offers', 'Movie Studios' and 'HD Movies'. The main body of the site highlights major titles.
All content has a description, purchase options, certification information and a breakdown of cast and crew. User preferences allow parental locks to be enforced, additional devices to be activated or deactivated, the creation of Wishlists and the redemption of gift vouchers (a big part of DSG's promotional strategy). Registering for the site sees it take billing details so purchasing content is as simple as clicking the relevant option (SD/HD, rent or buy - where available). Furthermore streaming content is done in the browser with additional software only required for downloads. High definition titles offer Full HD 1080p video and Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.
So how does it perform? This is another feather in KnowHow Movies' cap. The platform is powered by Rovi (formerly Macrovision) which uses DivX's adaptive streaming Plus Software to adjusts the bitrate in real time to avoid unnecessary buffering. This change in quality can be distracting, but clearly less so than having your content stop continually - especially if others are using your bandwidth.