EE entered the television space a few years ago, hoping to tempt its mobile and home broadband subscribers who wanted an upgrade on their existing service but didn’t want to splash out on a lengthy contract with Sky or Virgin Media.
Since then, EE has been bought by BT, but the mobile operator is still committed to the fixed broadband and TV markets, carving out a niche of its own.
It’s true the EE TV platform isn’t as comprehensive as some of its rivals, but it does have some unique features and is cheaper than the competition. And there are benefits for anyone who takes out a broadband or mobile deal with EE too.
In terms of channels on EE TV, it’s a hybrid between Freeview and streaming services. You might wonder what’s the point of subscribing to a Pay TV service when all you get is free-to-air channels, but the value of EE TV is in the box and the features it enables, but more on that later.
There are 70 completely free channels via your aerial as well as 11 HD channels. These include high-definition versions of BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. If you don’t have an HD tuner in your television, this already represents an improvement.
The EE TV Box supports a vast array of catch-up TV, subscription streaming services and media applications. BBC iPlayer and Demand 5 are on board, as are apps for YouTube, Deezer and live sporting action through BBC Sport, and reality television from Hayu and blockbuster movies from Rakuten TV.
There are some notable absentees however. There’s no support for Netflix or Amazon Prime, which immediately puts it at a disadvantage when compared to other streaming devices, while BT TV and Virgin Media do offer Netflix on their platforms. The ITV Hub is also conspicuous in its absence – so there’s no watching Coronation Street – and Channel 4’s All 4 is another exclusion.
It’s very curious that there’s no way to get BT Sport on EE TV either. Given that EE is owned by BT, you would have thought there would be a dedicated application – something that would have been a big selling point.
There are two subscription services that can supplement your Freeview channels. TV Player Plus offers 24 TV channels such as Eurosport and Discovery Channel without a long-term contract, while NOW TV means you can get the best Sky content and channels on your EE TV box – again without a contract.
You’ll have to purchase all these subscriptions separately (and not from EE) and it’s worth making sure your broadband connection is suitable for streaming. No one wants buffering during a crucial football match.
Sound good? Well there is a significant catch. You cannot get EE TV as a standalone product – you have to take EE home broadband to get it. While this might suit someone looking for a new provider, it will put off others in the middle of an existing contract or those who don’t want to switch from their existing ISP.
It’s also not possible to add EE TV to a mobile subscription, so getting a fixed broadband service really is the only option.
EE offers standard broadband averaging 10Mbps and two fibre broadband packages averaging 36Mbps and 67Mbps. It’s worth getting fibre if you plan on making the most of EE TV’s streaming capabilities. On top of this, you can add anytime landline or mobile calls, and even international calls for an additional fee. And if you’re already an EE mobile and broadband customer, you’ll get a mobile data boost of anything between 5GB and 50GB a month.
Once you’ve picked your broadband package, you simply add EE TV to your plan and that’s it. There’s no set-up charge and because EE TV connects via a home aerial (which you should already have) and your home broadband connection (which is required), there’s no setup.
If you do take EE Broadband and EE TV, you will be tied into an 18-month contract.
So we’ve established EE TV is a low-cost upgrade to Freeview, so why would you pay for it? The answer is the box.
The EE TV box lets you record up to four programmes at once and it’s possible to store up to 600 hours of standard definition or 300 hundred hours of high definition video on a 1TB hard drive – that compares favourably with offerings from EE’s rivals.
What’s more, you can nominate eight favourite SD channels, or six HD channels, and EE TV will record the entire day’s television. You can also filter by genre, so it will just record movies, drama or sport. This means that if you tune in halfway through a programme, you can restart from the beginning.
But what’s really impressive about EE TV is how it works with your smartphone or tablet. You can watch live or recorded TV on four devices around the home simultaneously and seamlessly move between them.
In the EE TV App, you can move a programme from a device to the big screen with a swipe and ‘fetch’ a show from the TV in the application menu. The app also doubles up as a remote control, so you can browse the TV guide without interrupting other viewers, and you can also set remote record instructions when you’re out and about.
Unfortunately, you can’t download programmes to watch away from the home, as you can with Sky Q.
EE TV is still largely the same service it was when it launched in 2014, and the arrival of Sky Q means many of its features aren’t as unique as they were back then. But they are still absent from many other television platforms and of course Sky Q is significantly more expensive.
Unfortunately, there’s no getting round the lack of premium content. The multiscreen and mobile viewing features are so impressive that it’s a shame they are limited to the basic array of Freeview channels. What really lets the service down is the absence of some of the more popular streaming services and the fact that you need an EE broadband subscription.
It’s also worth pointing out that you don’t actually own the box and have to give it back to the company if you choose to end your subscription, so it might be more cost-effective to purchase a PVR off the shelf and stick with your current ISP.
If you’re looking for a top-of-the-range service, then EE TV isn’t for you. Sure, you can access Sky Sports via NOW TV, but there’s no BT Sport available and Eurosport is an entirely different subscription. Similarly, Sky Cinema is available but there’s no Netflix. EE TV is also a lot of hassle for someone who isn’t already one of its broadband subscribers.
But if you’re happy with Freeview, on the fence about your next broadband provider and want a relatively cheap upgrade that lets you pause and record live TV, then you’ll struggle to find a better-value deal.
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