Sky Go Extra: Possibly the shittest service I’ve used this year

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Let’s not mince words. Sky Go Extra is rubbish.

There we go.

Cathartic.

What the frack are you thinking, Sky?

Your advertising smarts have done a brilliant job with the “Sky TV, now available on trains” messaging. The message is brilliant.

The actual user experience is simply dire.

You cannot, you SIMPLY cannot go to market with this trash.

Either do it right, or switch it off.

Clearly there were far too many early afternoons and incomplete whiteboards when the team were discussing the abomination that is Sky Go Extra. They must have known they were shovelling out a rubbish product.

Here’s the premise, right? Here’s how it’s marketed.

You’re a Sky TV subscriber, yes? That means you pay a fair whack for access to a wide range of quality programming. This is fact. Anything good that you’d like to watch in the United Kingdom, Sky have bought it. With rare exceptions. Whether it’s JJ Abrams new “Revolution” or the next series of Game of Thrones, Sky own it.

A little while ago Sky released Sky Go. This is a mobile app that allows you to watch a limited amount of Sky programming live, via your phone. It works best when you’re sitting at home on WiFi, but it can — at a stretch — work on 3G. Or 4G. In fact on EE 4G it’s positively excellent — provided you’re not moving in and out of mobile cells at 125mph on the train.

Yes. The train. That’s an arse, isn’t it? Someone at Sky thought so — rightly — and decided that they should offer subscribers the ability (for extra money, fair enough) to be able to specify what programming you’d like to watch and have it downloaded to your phone. This was named Sky Go Extra. The basic use case is simple — I select two episodes of the latest “Walking Dead” series for download when I get out of bed so I can watch them on the train where I’ve rubbish signal. Or perhaps watch them on the plane.

If you’re a Sky Movies subscriber you’ll also be able to download full movies. Seriously useful. And when you evaluate the £5/month additional fee for Sky Go Extra in that context, it sounds brilliant. To ease your discomfort at spunking out another fist of pounds on your Sky contract, the company offers one month free, if memory serves.

It is significantly compelling if you think about iTunes or competing services. If you’d like to download a movie per day to watch on the train, that’ll soon add up on iTunes. It’s not just trains though. Think about flying, or any sort of travel. Or think about the basic inconvenience of having rubbish or inconsistent WiFi wherever you’d like to consume your Sky programming.

The good news stops the moment you activate Sky Go Extra.

The user experience is simply shocking. For the first week I couldn’t work out why when I clicked “download” on a Sky 1 episode, the “download” option briefly highlighted and then did nothing.

I restarted my phone. I restarted the app. A week or so later with the phone sitting next to the WiFi router at home, downloads started to work. Yipeee. I seemed to have to leave my phone sitting permanently fixed on Sky Go Extra in order for the download to work. Switch out of the app and the session appears to quit. Great.

Imagine, then, the flipping annoyance I experienced when I sat down on the train — about 5 metres from the “Sky TV now available on trains” advert — and pressed “watch” on the episode I’d downloaded.

Nothing.

I pressed it again.

Nothing.

I have zero tolerance for this sort of thing.

Get it right.

I wondered if you needed to switch off the cellular connection so as not to confuse the app. I tried that. No.

I then waited until the train was parked up at a station for a few moments where the signal was excellent and tried playing the download. Nothing.

Right then.

That’s annoying.

It could be the iPhone though, couldn’t it?

I tried it on the iPad.

Same stupid experience.

I tried it on the Sony Xperia T — a pretty nifty Android device. Same experience.

Actually, it was worse. Sky Go Extra wouldn’t let me download the episodes on the Xperia because it’s stupidly unhelpful copyright protection bollocks informed me I’d already downloaded these episodes on two other devices.

Who was in charge of that bit of user acceptance testing?

Aside from the fact the whole thing hasn’t actually worked for me, I was deeply unimpressed at finding only the latest episodes of some of the key Sky content. If you’ve only seen the first three episodes of Elementary (the Sherlock Homes in New York series) then you’re screwed, because Sky Go Extra only offers episodes 10 and 11. Because of some shit stupid bollocks reason related to content rights no doubt.

Seriously, Sky. I’d have expected you to use your News Corporation SCALE to have beat folk into submission.

If I can record the episodes on Sky+, right? Why can’t I access the *file* from you so I can watch it? I mean, READ my Sky+ Box playlist and VERIFY I have actually downloaded it if your content rights supplier is that desperate.

The selection of content is pretty limited too. In the age of BBC iPlayer, my expectations have shifted. Put everything online, Sky. Everything. If you don’t have the rights, go and buy them. Negotiate them. You’re good at that. Make it a phenomenal service that ensures no one in their right mind would look at competing services.

I haven’t contacted Sky for support. In my view, this stuff should work first time or be rescuable with a restart/reinstall or by using a different handset. If I have to phone you, you’ve failed. This stuff should just work.

How truly disappointing. I know from a few chats on Twitter that Sky Go Extra seems to have worked for some people. Good for them. The universal feedback I got from asking around was that the service is dire. So I’m not alone, then.

You could have been a contender, Sky. Utterly disappointing.

I’m pretty sure that I can’t just unsubscribe from Sky Go Extra with a tick box now though. If it’s anything like my last experience trying to remove a service from Sky, I’ll be on the phone for hours whilst they do everything they possibly can to try and persuade me to avoid removing the item from my on-going bill. They’re really good at customer retention.

So that’s another arse I’ll need to deal with.

Still, I’d welcome the opportunity to read about your experiences with Sky Go Extra. Has it worked for you? I’m sure it can’t be a total dud.

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  • Timple

    BBC iplayer still lets me download episodes to watch on my Symbian phone – and has done for years. There’s always something worth watching on it mate. I don’t believe even Android allows that at the moment and iOS just got it recently. So much for crappy Symbian!

  • MarkW

    They do appear to have *just* pushed an update to iOS… Trying my first dl now and it’s working so far. Know what you mean about having to phone to cancel though. It’s extremely easy to sign-up online, not so easy to stop Sky services.

  • MarkW

    Heh! So much for my blind optimism. Sat down to watch that download last night only to find it refused to play and, anyway, there’s no support for HDMI out via Apple TV. Boy, was I popular with my wife, having told her that I’d found that episode she’d missed. Rubbish.

  • http://www.stuartbruce.biz/ Stuart Bruce

    Ewan, so glad I read this before I subscribed. I’m on the train now and had literally just added “Subscribe to Sky Go Extra” to my task list. And then started reading my RSS feeds (what will I do without Google Reader to sync my offline RSS reader?) and just as rapidly deleted the task!

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  • Tom

    Thought this evaluation/review/report call it whatever you will was incredible. One of the best things I’ve read in a while. Enjoyable to read and very insightful, thanks!

  • Edward Black

    It’s now March 2014 and SKY GO EXTRA IS STILL PANTS

    I have managed to download three programmes to my Archos Android Tablet but it takes forever even on a very fast wifi connection and at some point in each of the three programmes just as I’m starting to enjoy it I get an error message “sorry. A technical error occurred. Please try again”

    Please try what again? If I play it again I get the same error. And I can’t download it again because there’s no way to delete it. RUBBISH. RUBBISH RUBBISH

    ALSO: the publicity material says that you can add up to four devices. EXCEPT YOU CAN’T. You can add one two devices and then one further device EACH MONTH. Why establish such a stupid policy? And why issue misleading publicity.

    RUBBISH. RUBBISH RUBBISH

  • http://www.mobileindustryreview.com Ewan

    Ah dear. I am actually having an OK experience via iPhone and iPad now. It’s still quite annoying at times but it is working for me.

    Have you got any other devices you can try it on? Is your Archos up to date?

  • Edward Black

    My Archos is up to date. I assume they have focused on iOS 7 rather than Android. In another week I can add another device and try again. Great fair use policy

  • Brian McGrath

    I got Sky a few months ago and it just doesn’t work. I have tried to download onto my Galaxy S2 and my new Tab 3. It’s really crap. Although the remote recording is handy

  • Asterick Jones

    Seems that torrenting the episode saga would be far better technically.

  • Anonymous

    Sky Go is rubbish. In general it is pathetic.

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