Hands-on: Sky EPG 2014 review (video)

Sky is set to release an update to the EPG in the UK this Spring (read April) that will bring a couple of new features as well as pave the way for more features in the coming months.

We've been living with the new update to see if it helps improve your viewing, or whether it gets in the way.

Design

The new design still sports the same blue and yellow colours as before and is more a refinement of what we've seen rather than a complete re-write. The design has been flattened slightly with a greater emphasis on a more tabbed experience even those tabs are really just design cues rather than actual tabs.

On the whole, navigation is still the same, there aren't any new features to learn, however there is now a much greater emphasis on on-demand content rather than just seeing what's on now or next.

What you want, when you want it

Press TV Guide and instead of automatically showing you what's on BBC One and Sky One you are now presented with eight choices to get you elsewhere in the system at the press of one more button.

The first main option is a shortcut to take you to the EPG (it looks very similar to before) and surprisingly we've not felt that this is an extra step to have to endure.

That could be, because, as Sky has started to realise, people don't go to the TV Guide to find out what's on, or it could be that like most, we "time shift" shows a lot recording to watch later.

Other shortcuts include one to the Planner, another to New shows and highlighting all those Box Sets that Sky has available - Game of Thrones, 24, and the like.

Search

If you still can't find anything to watch you can access the new Search box. It is quick and easy to use, as long as you can remember how texting used to work. It has been a long time since we had to spell anything using numbers, and you'll find it slow to type here, although at least Sky does try to auto-complete your search and offers a drop down menu to pick from. We love the fact that you can search for actor for example, as well as, show or movie.

There is one annoyance we found, that admittedly is easily solved. Once you get into the new TV Guide home page it will take you three presses of the Back-up button to get back to the the show, where it only took once. After a bit of playing around we found that by pressing the Sky button instead, this got us back to TV in one button press instead.

Even more on-demand

Interestingly there isn't any more on-demand now available that there has previously been, it is just Sky are doing a much better job of surfacing that content so you can see it better.

In that regard it has. Once you get the new EPG you'll believe that Sky has just made a huge amount of shows and movies available to you. Whether it is movies, catchup, Sky Store content or other on-demand stuff it is everywhere, rather than buried in the user interface.

New shows

One of the new ways Sky has chosen to highlight what's available is via a new area called New. It highlights new shows either recently started or coming soon and ready to programme to record.

At the moment, we can't tell how the choices are highlighted, whether it is someone at Sky, a computer algorithm or paid for placement. It doesn't list every show that's new, but it does have huge potential. In the first day playing with the service we realised a new show we liked was started soon, and we were able to set up series link for it. Brilliant.

To pay or not to pay

If you can't get enough of the content that you never realised you could get, the option to buy it just became easier too. Again not because Sky has changed what it offers, or the price it offers it (they will be adding the chance to purchase movies as well as rent shortly), but because it is easier to find. Press TV guide and scroll to the big button that says Sky Store and start clicking on stuff to download. It really is that easy now to find stuff.

Early verdict

Any fears you have that the change to the home page will cause extra pages to get through aren't really founded here, the EPG is still simple to use and now reflects, we feel, the way people are starting to watch television more and more.

Think of this update as the start of better things, the start of some new features, like Recommendations that will suggest shows for you based on what you've got stored on your Sky Box, and you start to see the benefit even more.

There of course will be a few niggles you find, and in reality this is really just a quick gloss of paint rather than a fundamental shift and change in design and attitude, but for the most part we think you'll enjoy it.

The new EPG is expected to roll out to customers over the next couple of months.

 



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