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Well I haven’t actually noticed any obnoxious odours coming out of my ONdigital box, but it certainly does have some very unpleasant habits. Having said that it also has some 36GG assets, namely the extra channels.
The digital television age was much anticipated and when it finally arrived years after the hype had begun (I think that begun with the release of digital watches) it was still hailed as the future. A few years on and it is time to consider the differences that digital television has made to our viewing.
For about a decade Satellite TV (namely BskyB) has provided a huge variety of channels at extortionate prices that have gradually stolen most worthwhile programmes and events from those of us who can’t afford more than our annual TV license. Sky have continually discovered new ways to make money, such as Pay Per View and of course, Skydigital, providing hundreds of extra channels that nobody ever watches, but every sky viewer pays for.
Like most I suppose the variety of channels appeals to me, but I am strongly anti-Sky as they began the trend that has forced us to pay extra to see important and even not-so-important sporting events and latest film releases. Therefore getting a satellite dish (and lets face it they are very ugly things) was never going to be viable to me. So how might I get that extra choice of channels (and hence programmes) that sounds so attractive?
Well about two and a half years ago (is it really that long?) ONdigital was launched, providing a terrestrial digital service at a reasonably reasonable price. After many months of “ah yes I must get ONdigital” I finally got my digital box and signed up about 6 months ago. Fortunately the box was completely free when I signed up to ONdigital; one does not own it, but you loan it for year-long periods as long as your subscription lasts. I’ll move onto prices in a minute (or a thousand words of waffle, whichever comes first), but for now children we will content ourselves with discovering what ONdigital offers.
First of all there are the free-to-view channels, the main terrestrial channels plus a few others. You can get all of these (except Welsh and Scottish only channels), these being BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 (even if you can’t get it through your standard aerial), BBC Knowledge, BBC Choice, BBC News24, ITN news, ITV 2, E4 and a few others. I was disappointed by the “extra” Beeb channels, except News24 which due to its nature is not repeats or budget programmes and includes some interesting, excellently presented programmes. E4 may be of interest to many, especially Big Brother fans (I still can’t believe that some people actually enjoy that programme)!
The ONdigital primary channels are available in varying numbers depending upon what subscription “deal” you choose. They include UK Gold (repeats of popular programmes), UK play (a comedy and music channel), UK Style/Horizons (two Sky channels merged into one), Discovery Kids/Wings (another merged channel and completely useless unless you are a strange kid or mad on planes, or perhaps both), Carlton Cinema/On Sport 2 (On sport channels show UEFA Champions league matches, Carlton Cinema is possibly the worst film channel ever), British Eurosport and some others, mostly women’s/men’s magazine channels. On sport 1 is a “bonus channel”; see later.
The ONdigital “premium” channels cost a, well, premium. I didn’t deem them worth it, or at least not affordable, but they consist of Sky Premier (films), Movie Max (more films), Filmfour (speaks for itself really), Sky 1, Cartoon Network and Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3. And it says in smallprint that “adult” channels are also available, that is “The Adult Channel” and “Television X”. So there’s something for everybody, even sad perverts (sorry to anybody who stays up all night getting cheap- or not so cheap- thrills out of TV porn).
So then you can see for yourself that there are not many channels unique to ONdigital. They do have Champions League football (endlessly repeated) and some obscure tennis tournaments on On Sport 1 and 2, but most of the other channels are less well-known sky channels or not that great BBC channels (I was expecting more from BBC Choice and BBC knowledge). I do spend a lot of time watching BBC News24 and UK Gold (why were comedies so much better in the 70s?) and Brit Eurosport and Carlton Cinema at least provide options and occasionally have something of interest. ITV2 provides a constant football scores update programme on Saturday afternoons which although not sensational viewing is useful for footy fans.
The variety of channels is not as great as I originally made out, but this is still the main attraction of ONdigital, and at least the prices are not too appalling:
Option 1: All available free-to-view and primary channels plus Champions League football (not guaranteed after the season that has just finished) for £11.99 per month.
Option 2: 6 primary channels, Champions League football and of course the “free-to-view channels” for £9.99 per month.
Option 3: All the free-to-view channels and one primary channel (no Champions League football) for £6.99
You will notice at this stage that you cannot have just the “free-to-view” channels, so that you have to pay for them, somewhat defeating the object of them being “free”.
Premium Channels: These are in addition to one of the above options. Film four costs £5.99 a month, 1 Sky premium channel is £11 a month, 2 Sky premium channels are £15 a month, 3 are £18 a month, 4 are £20 a month.
At the time I signed up there was also an “introductory offer” whereby you could have Option 1 for the price of Option 2 for three months so that you could determine which channels you wanted. I’m not sure if this is still available and have not been able to find out!
This is still cheaper than sky and is on this basis a reasonable option for us anti-Sky protestors (perhaps we should be throwing stones in Gothenburg). The digital picture quality is much crisper than standard analogue and there is a widescreen option. BBC1 and 2 programmes also now sometimes have digital options (e.g. after the election you could access results and analysis by pressing the red button, and for the Wimbledon Championships this year you will be able to choose which match to watch by pressing the same red button). Digital is better than analogue and getting even better, but it comes at a price!
There are some unfortunate glitches though; sometimes programmes “freeze” for a second or two, which is most irritating. More irritating though is that the box “crashes” and you cannot change channels until you have turned the box off, removed the “smart card”, blown off any dust, replaced it and turned the box back on again. This would be OK if it only happened occasionally, but as it happens every two or three days then it is another irritating factor. So the morale of the story is, don’t turn on the digital TV if you are already frustrated because you may be held liable for any damage caused when you throw the box against the wall in frustration).
All in all a good service, but not excellent; I’ll recommend it, but only if you desperately want greater variety and Sky is out of the question for financial or political reasons. It is at least easy to set up (simple as phoning a number). To find out more or to sign up visit a local electronics store or visit www.ondigital.co.uk. Be warned however this site is not the best (it does not even tell you prices). However it does have some good sections such as technical support and jargon-busting.
A good opinion but with OnDigital now bust a pretty useless one. My grandad had OnDigital or ITV Digital as it was later known and it was much worse than Sky Digital which we have. Sky Digital is definitly the best - more channels & a better interface. Cheers, James.
paulbowes2k1 03.09.2001 13:02
Not sure about the name timmyotoole!lol. But this write-up is up there with the best! Why be anti-Sky though? You have to pay for I.T.V. Digital in just the same way.Even though I disagree with the over-the-top prices!!
killip 17.08.2001 00:17
Aaaah so another anti-Sky person! Welcome to the club! Excellent op by the way -Rick