Sony has pushed out its update for 2015 Bravia televisions running on Android TV, bringing with it the new YouView experience.
YouView replaces the old EPG and brings with it a number of benefits, updating your already smart TV, to make a range of things slicker, simpler and better than before.
YouView already exists on a number of set-top boxes - from TalkTalk, BT and Humax for example - but its integration into Sony's televisions in the UK is a big deal, both for Sony and YouView, but more importantly for you, the owner of one of these sets.
What is YouView?
YouView is a TV platform that aims to seamlessly integrate live TV services with the UK's catch-up offerings. Rather than make you stop watching TV to open the BBC iPlayer app for example, it will simply let you scroll your electronic programme guide (EPG) back and select what you want to watch.
It's as simple as scrolling forward to find something you want to view later in the day, support programming up 7 days in the past, as well as in the future.
YouView has been available for several years and has about 2 million active users currently. Many will be getting YouView from BT or TalkTalk TV packages, but the deal with Sony is the first time it has rolled out on mass scale to a manufacturer's televisions.
YouView says that its platforms contains about 17,000 programmes in all, and that's spread across live Freeview HD channels and catch-up programming.
Why is YouView on Sony Bravia TVs a big deal?
Sony is the first television manufacturer to directly integrate YouView onto its televisions. It will be rolling out as a free update on all 2015 Bravia models running on Android TV. It is a free upgrade and YouView is a free service, based on Freeview broadcast content.
There's a lot going on on those Bravia models, because not only do you have the first generation of Sony's Android TVs, but you're now also getting YouView too. Both are smart platforms and both will coexist on your Sony TV. But trust us, the move to YouView is a good thing, as this is a very solid platform and offers a lot of sweet features.
Also, YouView is an exclusive UK platform, so those lucky people in the UK with the latest Sony TV are getting something special.
YouView replaces your previous programme guide
There's guide button on your remote that you probably use every day. It opens the EPG so you can browse TV programmes to see what's on. That EPG is now replaced by YouView.
YouView is the EPG. Unlike Freeview where each manufacturer gets to decide how the information is portrayed and navigated in the EPG, YouView is standardised across devices. When you open the new YouView EPG on your Sony TV, it looks practically identical to that of a YouView set-top box.
However, this isn't just a straight port, YouView hasn't been shoehorned in, it instead takes advantage of the Sony Bravia's power to make it a little more distinct. The EPG on Sony TV's has a translucency, sitting over the live channel you're watching, rather than giving you a small cutout in the top right-hand corner previewing the channel.
From within this EPG you can scroll forward to see what's on, and you can scroll back to seamlessly access content on catch-up TV services. You're no longer restricted to live watching or heading into the home menu, picking the app you want for catch-up, opening that and searching. It's now seamless. Oh, and it's really fast too.
Sony YouView: Integrated catch-up
YouView on your Sony TV offers a full range of UK catch-up services. You have BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 and as we've said, all these services are linked into the EPG. When there's a programme available, you'll be able to see it and start it playing pretty much instantly.
When you select what you want to watch, the TV jumps to that app and away you go. It's very fast, with YouView telling us it's gained speed by leveraging the Bravia's processing power. YouView is even saying that it's slicker than some of the set-top boxes.
The players themselves are hosted on the YouView platform, but you can access them through a number of avenues. They are listed as apps within the Android TV Home menu of your Sony TV, as well as being accessible from the YouView side. They are the same apps, but if you want to go directly to BBC iPlayer and just browse, you're free to do so.
They also have content integrated into YouView's search function and the Discover function, which we'll talk about in a second.
YouView is the slickest implementation of seamless live and catch-up TV that we've seen, better than Freeview Play from what we've seen so far, so this is a big boost to your Sony TV.
However, YouView only deals in those core catch-up channels, it doesn't host other content sources, these remain in the regular Sony Home menu.
Sony YouView: Search and Discover
Search is very powerful on YouView, forming part of the smart content discovery that the platform offers.
You simply head into Search and you can start typing, with results appearing right away. It makes predictive suggestions, centring the most popular. Type "Do…" and you'll be getting Downton Abbey and Doctor Who appearing, so you can select what you want to watch.
This will be offerings both from live channels, as well as on catch-up services. It's a little smarter too, because searching for Downton Abbey will also return other associated results. For example, if Hugh Bonneville was the Star in a Reasonably Priced Car on Top Gear, it will appear too. (He was, and it does.)
That's all well and good when you know what you want, but YouView also offers a content discovery approach. This will let you browse by category, so you can look for comedies, or drama.
However, this is where Sony serves up an exclusive, as the existing Discover button on the Sony remote is also linked into YouView. Hit that button and you'll get a menu open up at the bottom, loaded with suggestions. The top picks that head it come from a range of sources, before you drop down into content from other places, like PlayStation Video, alongside suggestions from YouView.
Sony YouView: What about Netflix?
You'd think that Netflix is the only source of TV that people watch. This is one area that Sony's implementation of YouView differs from the set-top boxes from Humax, BT or TalkTalk.
On a set-top box, YouView is everything. When you head into the "players" section, you'll have many services, including Netflix, Now TV and more. That's because a set-top box is doing everything, whereas on a Sony TV there's the entire Android TV platform behind it.
On Sony TVs, that leaves YouView to handle UK catch-up services and Android TV to do the rest. So Netflix and Amazon's video services remain where they were before. The advantage this offers is that you'll get 4K (if you have a 4K television) which currently isn't the case with YouView set-top boxes.
This also means that the introduction of YouView doesn't interfere with any of the services that Sony already offers and we suspect that if you're used to pressing Home and then choosing the app so you can watch Narcos or Breaking Bad, then you'll still be happy to do so.
What Sony Bravia TVs get YouView?
The list of Sony Bravia TVs is pretty extensive, covering those sets launched in 2015 with Android TV.
Here's the full list: KD-75X94C, KD-65X93C, KD-55X93C, KD-75X91C, KD-65X90C, KD-55X90C, KD-65S85C, KD-55S85C, KD-65S80C, KD-55S80C, KD-75X85C, KD-65X85C, KD-55X85C, KD-49X83C, KD-43X83C, KD-55X80C, KD-49X80C, KDL-75W85C, KDL-65W85C, KDL-55W80C, KDL-50W80C, KDL-43W80C, KDL-55W75C, KDL-50W75C, KDL-43W75C.
The update is rolling out from 4 November, so should be available right away.