Entertainment

Bell's CraveTV: A look at the pros and cons

By Sean Fitzgerald, 24 Hrs

So, we've got another contender in the streaming game now.

Bell Media's new on-demand video streaming service, once known as Project Latte – which even Bell Media President Kevin Crull referred to as “a lame codename” at a recent launch event in Toronto – has arrived. The service is now known as CraveTV, a moniker that might make some people think of sex and others pondering our upcoming food choices. For us, it brings back memories of that time we gorged on multiple bowls of Krave cereal because it was the s'mores flavour and tasted amazing, but then left us with a stomach ache and ruined half our day. Live and learn, right?

Anyway, the newly launched CraveTV can be watched using a number of platforms, including set-top boxes, mobile apps, smart TVs, gaming consoles and on the web. You can't get it everywhere, though, and certain platforms – such as Google's Chromecast – will be granted access in the new year.

In terms of content, Bell Media says that 65% of CraveTV's shows are exclusive to the service at launch, with 320 unique titles available now. But is this worth looking into, especially if you're already a user of Netflix or Shomi? Let's examine some pros and cons:

PROS

FEWER CLICKS TO CONTENT: At the launch event, Bell Media reps highlighted the minimalist nature of CraveTV’s interface, emphasizing that viewers will be able to watch content as quickly as possible. The interface, which shares some similarities to Netflix, seems easy to use and worked fairly smoothly when we tested it. Bell’s approach to things here, using the mentality of “it’s about watching, not searching,” contrasts with Shomi’s focus on bringing users back to the “browsing Blockbuster” days and celebrating the joys of looking for stuff to watch.

FOUR DOLLARS A MONTH: This is one of CraveTV's best selling points, since you can subscribe for basically half the price of Netflix or Shomi. At the launch event, the unveiling of the price had most audience members nodding in approval, with one or two people whispering “Whoa,” Keanu Reeves-style.

HBO CONTENT: This is the acquisition that makes us the most excited, since CraveTV has 744 hours of HBO's off-air catalogue available at launch. That's obviously a pretty sweet deal. But while you can binge on seasons of The Sopranos, The Wire or Deadwood, you won't be able to check out the latest episodes of Girls or Game of Thrones.

CONS

NEED TV SUBSCRIPTION: This is the weird one. You can only access CraveTV right now if you're already subscribing to cable TV through Bell, Bell Aliant, Eastlink or TELUS Optik TV. And while this might change in the future – don't get totally turned off yet, cord-cutters – for the moment, CraveTV is “designed to complement the traditional television ecosystem,” according to a press release from Bell Media.

NO MOVIES OR KIDS CONTENT: Sure, we understand that Bell wants to differentiate CraveTV by focusing mainly on TV shows. But if you've got little ones at home, or you prefer watching two-hour cinematic adventures, then you'll be out of luck here (to be fair, CraveTV does offer a few of HBO's straight-to-TV movies, such as the recent Liberace flick Behind the Candelabra).

LIBRARY NOT THAT EXCITING: While CraveTV's offerings seem very eclectic – giving us titles like Cheers, Arrow, Sex and the City, Orphan Black, Monty Python's Flying Circus and many others – it just doesn't feel as exciting as what you can get on Netflix. Do you really need to pay extra money to watch Seinfeld reruns?

In the end, CraveTV feels like a decent add-on if you're already a Bell TV subscriber and want to catch up on past seasons of shows that you've heard good things about. Remember when your co-worker was raving about Masters of Sex and The Following last year? Now you can find out for yourself. It's basically like paying $50 a year to have access to stacks of box sets of TV shows.

But at this point, is it worth ditching your Netflix membership, switching from Shomi or becoming an upstanding citizen and turning your back on torrent sites? Not really. We don't know anyone that's dying to sign up for a TV subscription so they can access CraveTV and revisit every episode of Flashpoint. Sorry, but that's the truth.

Twitter: @SeanDFitzgerald

sean.fitzgerald@sunmedia.ca


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