Just above the main list of programmes on the Sky Anytime+ screen are sub-category headers to help you find something you want to watch more easily. The categories on offer are: Sky Store, Movies, Entertainment, Docs, Kids, Sports, All, and Channels. And within each of these sub-categories you tend to get similar sets of sub-folders to delve into, usually based around All, Most Popular, Recently Added, Last Chance, and various genre definitions.
Not surprisingly, the free on-demand content available in these sections is largely dependent on the level of subscription you have. For instance, if you’re not a subscriber to Sky Movies, you won’t be able to access films on demand from the Sky Movies library. However, the Store section of Anytime lets all Sky customers with a Sky HD box choose from thousands of titles available to rent. Rental prices range between £1.49 and £2.00, the films take in anything from the latest blockbusters to smaller indie movies and back catalogue titles.
For us, the highlights of the Anytime proposition were the Entertainment, Docs and Sports sections. The Entertainment section, for instance, provides the facility to catch up with previous episodes of some quite high-profile programmes, such as Hawaii Five-O, Touch, Luck, Grey’s Anatomy, and Mad Men.
Some of these programmes have the past few episodes available to watch, some have just the most recently shown episode available to watch, and in a few cases you can even access an entire series.
This inconsistency in terms of how far back the on-demand episode lists go for different channels and programmes is potentially a bit annoying. But then it’s difficult to blame Sky for this situation; after all, different content providers have different rules about how far back they want ‘catch up’ services to go, and it’s actually fairly standard practice in the catch up TV world to only have a single episode of a series available on catch up at any one time.
So you could argue that having more than one episode of any series in the Entertainment section is a bonus. And by that reckoning, having full season collections of some series, such as An Idiot Abroad and Boardwalk Empire, could be considered a major result.
The problem is, once you have found some series available as full on-demand ‘boxsets’ or with a few catch up episodes, you can’t help but expect the same level of provision for every show – no matter how unreasonable such expectations might be.
As a perfect example of this, it's hard not to feel annoyed that the full first series of Game of Thrones isn't available to watch on Anytime+ ahead of the second series starting. But of course, the reality of this particular situation is that with Game of Thrones Season 1 recently launched on Blu-ray, HBO was almost certainly never going to give Sky the rights to make the first season available for free on Anytime+. At least for now. Once you give people a taste of something like Anytime+ does, though, it’s just human nature for those people to want more.
However, while issues over on-demand rights to different series will repeatedly cause disappointments for some viewers when they can’t find their favourite programmes available on catch-up, the reality is that the overall amount of content available on Sky Anytime+ is actually pretty high.
This is down in no small part to the high number of channels on-board the Anytime+ system. Look under the Channels banner and you’ll find the following list of on-demand participants: ITV Player, Sky1, Sky Living, Sly Atlantic, Watch, Gold, Dave, Comedy Central, FX, Challenge, MTV, alibi, Sky Arts 1 & 2, Home, bio, Discovery Real Time, Home and Health, Good Food, Sky Movies, Sky Sports, Sky Sports F1, ESPN Classic, Sky News, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, National Geographic Channel, National Geographic Wild, History, Military History, Crime and Investigation Network, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Nickelodeon, Disney XD, The Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Nick Jr, and Cartoonito. Oh, and the BBC iPlayer is also due to arrive on Anytime+ before the end of the year. Phew.
The amount of content available is arguably greater than the current Anytime+ interface is capable of comfortably handling. There’s certainly a persistent sense that the current presentation format for the Anytime+ listings doesn’t handle the amounts of content particularly effectively, making it a bit of a chore to track down programmes that might not be featured on either the Showcase or Most Popular categories.
To be fair, it’s not especially easy to see how Sky could change the presentation radically while remaining within the established structure of its current electronic programme guide. But maybe it’s time for this while EPG to undergo a revamp? Also, we couldn't help but think it would be hugely helpful if the Anytime+ content could be added to Sky's excellent Sky listings app, as this would make finding desired content much easier.