BT Vision Streaming Service Review

Sections

Pros

  • Get free YouView box if you subscribe to BT Infinity and TV Essentials package
  • HD picture quality is strong
  • Streams are stable

Cons

  • Have to subscribe to BT Infinity or BT Broadband to get Vision
  • Only available through YouView or BT Vision receivers
  • Feels a bit expensive

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £18.00
  • Video streaming via BT
  • Box Office pay per view movie section
  • HD available on some films
  • Dolby Digital 5.1 audio on some films
  • Comes with free YouView box to new Infinity subscribers

Introduction

It’s been far too long since we last pored over the
BT Vision video streaming service. Way back in 2009, in fact. So it’s
high time we went back to it, to see how far it’s advanced. Especially
since BT recently kicked off a new promotion whereby you can get BT
Vision via a free YouView receiver.

To
get started, we need to explain all the complications of BT’s current
availability and cost options for BT Vision. The first – and in our
opinion most troublesome – point is that in order to access ANY BT
Vision content, even the pay per view stuff, you need to be signed up to
BT as your home internet provider. We’ll get into why we find this
problematic later.

Limited viewing device options

It also
remains the case that you can only watch BT Vision via either BT’s own
Vision receiver or a YouView box. There’s no support for iPads, Android
devices, Smart TVs or even PCs. This too seems rather limiting in this
day and age.

BT Vision

There
are essentially three BT Vision packages available: a basic TV
Essential subscription, a TV Unlimited service, and a Sports package.
Frustratingly, the latter option is currently only available if you get
one of BT’s Vision boxes rather than a YouView receiver, though the
service is due to become available via YouView by next summer.

It’s
also the case that you can now only get the Sports pack (unless you
already have it) if you live in an area served by BT’s fibre-based
Infinity network.

Sports Complication

So if you
fancy the Sports package – which currently comprises Sky’s Sports
channels – we’d probably recommend you go for the YouView/Infinity
option now if you’re in a suitable area and just manage without the
sports channels for a few months. After all, the BT Vision box doesn’t
offer either YouView’s brilliant ‘backwards EPG’ functionality or its
extra streaming players – like Sky’s Now TV.

To get a ‘free’
YouView box, then, as well as a ‘free’ TV Essentials BT Vision package,
you need to become a new subscriber to BT’s Infinity broadband service -
something that will cost you £18 a month if you’re one of the 11
million households and businesses currently covered by the fibre
network. If you can only get one of BT’s standard broadband services on
your local exchange then sorry, but there’s no free YouView box for you.

BT Vision

You
also aren’t entitled to a free YouView box if you’re already a BT
Internet subscriber; instead you’ll have to wait until you’re out of
contract and then take up the Infinity service as part of a completely
new contract.

You should also note that both the YouView and BT Vision receiver options carry a rather aggravating £49 ‘activation fee’.

Essentials

With
the TV Essentials package you get pay-per-view access to all of BT
Vision’s on-demand TV shows and Box Office movies, with TV episodes
costing between 50p and £1.10 a time and films starting at £3.50, and
going up to £4 for HD versions. These rentals are usually yours for 48
hours.

Splash an extra £12.50 a month to bag the Unlimited
service, and you don’t have to pay for any on-demand TV shows – they’re
included. Also you get an extra Vision Film section featuring more than
250 ‘back catalogue titles you can watch for free. At the time of
writing titles here included Air Force One, The Aviator, Kick Ass, The
English Patient, Face off, and Magnolia.

Doesn’t eat away at your download limits

One
last price-related issue we need to cover is that stuff you watch via
BT Vision is not treated as part your download allowance if you have one
on your broadband deal, so you won’t find yourself running out of
capacity after a couple of HD movies.

When you fire a YouView box
up now, it will automatically recognise if you’re a BT broadband
subscriber and if you are it will present you with a large BT Vision
icon on the home screen. One click of this and you’re straight into the
menu of services on offer.

BT Vision

This
menu is reasonably well presented and thought through. You get a
‘shorthand’ list of options on the left, with fuller menus associated
with the highlighted left-hand option on the right. The categories on
the left comprise: Vision Box Office, Vision Kids, Vision TV, Vision
Music, Vision Film, Vision Sport, and something called Essential on
Demand.

The stuff on the right side of the menu usually
comprises highlighted content for each of BT Vision’s areas, while also
providing other ‘jump offs’ to further content.

Handy OS features

Further
features of the menus that we greatly appreciated during our tests were
‘People who watched this title also watched’ recommendations, the
ability to create playlists (especially useful, of course, with the
music content) and the ability to bookmark favourite content so you can
find it more easily later.

The overall look of the menus is bright, colourful, spacious, inviting and for the most part logically laid out.

There
are a few issues with the OS, though. For starters, the menus are a
touch sluggish and they don’t show many video link icons on screen at
once. Also the service doesn’t do as much as it should to highlight HD
content. It turns out you having to go into the Search By Category
section before you stumble across a way of filtering films by whether
they’re HD or not.

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