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Winners and Losers: Free TV tackles lockdown boredom while gamers continue to lose out

We’re well into our third pandemic-induced national lockdown here in the UK and some tech companies have kept us entertained better than others. Last week, we crowned Disney Plus our winner for unveiling Star, a collection of adult-oriented shows and movies to balance out the platform’s family-focussed content.

Of course, Disney isn’t the only streaming service tempting users with new content while they’re glued to the couch. Three of the UK’s biggest TV providers announced free premium channels, apps and virtual experiences this week, suggesting they’ve finally gotten the hang of busting our boredom while we’re trapped indoors.

Sadly, February continued to look sour for anyone wanting to get their hands on a next-gen console, with Sony shifting the blame for its PS5 shortage and Microsoft warning that the Xbox Series X struggle could continue into the summer. That isn’t even to mention the recent Stadia setback.

While these games companies have no doubt had a rough week, the real losers here are the gamers hoping to buy those consoles. Meanwhile, TV fans have got to be our winners with many having been surprised this week with way more content than they signed up for.

Virgin TV

Winner: TV fans

If you’re a fan of plonking yourself in front of the TV at the end of a long day then chances are you received some free perks this week. Sky, Virgin Media and BT Sport were among the services offering free access to premium content, fitness apps, virtual experiences are more to subscribers, all seemingly with the aim of pulling users out of a lockdown funk.

Sky announced a range of freebies available to Sky VIP members throughout February, including weekly Sky Original movies, at-home workouts with fitness app Fiit and help with home-schooling from education app Highbrow. The provider topped it off with a year of free access to Discovery+, some Aardman model making workshops and a Harry Potter quiz.

Not to be outshone by Sky, Virgin Media revealed a similar array of free apps and content coming to Virgin TV this month. In this case, the update was very much centred about keeping kids learning and entertained while they’re cooped up inside with education app Hopster, as well as loads of premium kids channels offered to users at no extra cost, including Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Nickelodeon.

Lastly, there was good news for Premier League fans as BT Sport extended its Matchday Experience features to Android phones and tablets. Users can now stream content with friends, get a behind the scenes look at the stadium in AR and see real-time stats on screen, among other perks. Check out our guide on how to use Matchday Experience to discover more about each new feature.

PS5

Loser: Gamers

While TV fans were spoiled for choice this week, gamers were hit with bad news from three major companies: Microsoft, Sony and Google.

The latter rudely awoke us on Monday with the news that it would be closing the internal Stadia studio responsible for making first-party games. While Google insists that it hasn’t given up on the cloud gaming platform and that it will continue to concentrate on offering third-party titles, not everyone seems as confident of Stadia’s future.

Arguably, the worst gaming news came from the likes of Microsoft and Sony, warning that it could be a while before we see stores stocked with next-gen consoles.

Microsoft dashed the hopes of anyone hoping to get their hands on the Xbox Series X this week, when it warned the New York Times that supply shortages would continue into June despite the huge demand for the console.

Meanwhile, Sony shifted the blame for the lack of PS5s to suppliers in its latest earnings report. The company explained that it cannot scale up production to meet the demands of consumers due to a shortage of semiconductors and other components needed to make the console.

With many of the PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles that do make it to retailers still being snatched up by scalpers, it sounds like unlucky gamers will have to make do with older models for this lockdown.