NTL and Telewest have put all their eggs in one basket, as reported recently on Pocket-lint. One of aims of the merger was to present a real competitor to Sky. At about the same time, Telewest was in the process of launching Teleport - a huge expansion on interactive TV options - something that most Telewest customers stumbled on by mistake. You may have expected a fanfare to announce something like this, but it was more of a polite cough.
If you Google ‘Teleport’ then you don’t get a hit (at time of writing this article) until page 4. It strikes us at Pocket-lint as rather strange, that Telewest is sitting on an excellent service, and not flogging the marketing machine trying to sell it. I say sell it, but in reality, it’s a value added bonus to new and existing customers. If you have a fairly recent Telewest digital box, you’ll have all the equipment you need, including a remote control with the right buttons on.
If you subscribe to any of the Telewest cable TV packages, you press the Telewest button as normal to access the extra features. Originally, this included fairly regular pay-per-view movies, playing in time slots. There was always a reasonable range of titles, but nothing to get excited about. Teleport changes that completely. Not only does it carry a wide range of films from the classic to the contemporary (around 300 titles at present), but also Teleport Replay, and Teleport TV, as well as Teleport Lifesytle.
Replay lists programmes from the past week that you can call up and watch again. No need to record anything, you just press the button, and it arrives in the pipe. Of course, you also get the option of pause, ffwd and rewind when viewing programmes through Teleport. The films work in the same way, but on a pay-per-view basis, instantly to your TV. They work on a rental system, so you get to view a film as often as you like in a 24-hour period.
Teleport TV is a little strange - its basically a collection of great TV programmes available to view, although they do want to charge an extra fee here - £5 - unless you subscribe to the Supreme TV package. This is odd, because those being thrifty are unlikely to fork out an extra £5 a month to get Teleport TV, when they could pay it out to upgrade their normal TV package. But you will find all sorts lurking in the wings, including pay-per-view sports and events, adult entertainment and so on.
Of course, it is put in place to challenge some of the Sky+ features, and unlike Sky+, you don’t have to remember to record anything, your favourite programme will be there on order. An advantage of Sky+ is the pause or rewinding of live TV - of course you can’t do that with Teleport. The service also doesn’t cover everything on TV. At the moment we have BBC, LivingTV, Bravo and Challenge. Ok, its not a lot to shout about at the moment, but within the past week, we’ve caught up on some BBC programmes, as well as CSI on LivingTV.
What are the shortcomings? Well, we’ve already covered some of the areas where Sky+ stands out, and again, a significant difference here is that this is TV on demand, rather than a TV harddrive. Also, there seems to be a general lack of information of how far the coverage will go - essentially - will ITV be included, or will they spoil the party and not play ball? We don’t know.
Teleport is currently being rolled out, presumably as the network can handle it. The cost to customers is nothing for Replay, and the other material on a pay-per-view basis for the movies (ranging from £2 to £3.50).
That is, of course, if you have Telewest digital TV, which starts from £5.50, if you also take their phone service, starting at £10.50. To gain access to Teleport TV, you’ll have to pay £5 a month, unless you’re already paying the full whack for your Telewest TV. Sounds complicated? It is. And this is the major obstacle that Telewest faces. They want you to take the phone, TV and broadband bundle and with all the options, it’s a minefield, just like mobile phone talk plans. For us, it’s a thumbs up - its simple, it works, and so far, it’s been free.