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Hunger Games : Who’s feeding the masses?

Today’s mobile generation wants it all, and it wants it now. In every aspect of our lives we have come to expect more from technology and services – yet the simple act of buying a film or TV show often breaks down. Why?


As one of the hottest TV series at the moment, it’s no surprise that audiences get a buzz every time a Game of Thrones (GoT) advertisement appears (no spoilers here, don’t worry!). What’s hot also becomes the topic of conversation amongst your peers, so if you can’t get it there and then it can feel like you’re missing out. It came as no surprise GoT was the most pirated show in 2013 according to file sharing website TorrentFreak. They wanted it – they got it.

In recent years we’ve enjoyed an expansion of Internet streaming services, enhanced cable and video download services trying to win us over with new content. However, there’s also an array of new devices plugged into our screens that all work differently. This is a fragmented user experience, wasteful and inefficient, but to explain what I mean by this here’s my account of the ups and downs I recently experienced on “movie night” (in the style of 24)

One week before: Mrs Brown had heard about a new service announced by a “well-known entertainment” provider offering premium on-demand content in addition to our monthly subscription service.  As The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was about to debut at the cinemas, we decided to get up to speed by watching the debut film on demand.

19:45: Kids asleep! Settled on the sofa, YouView box powered up (a kind of Set-Top-Box –who puts these on top of their thin TVs these days?) and searched for the film. Film found – bingo! Launch the new “Store” application expecting it to just work…

But wait… it asks me for the login. Fair enough, it’s the first time I have used this service. I re-enter the details for my existing subscription. Same username and password would be logical, right? Wrong, I get this:

Error code 1059

What does that mean?

19:50: I walk upstairs to my computer looking for the answer. What was the new service called exactly? Something PAYG? Theatre? Premium? I can’t remember so I go back downstairs…

19:54: I head back upstairs with the service name and error code written down and find that I need to sign up a new account for the new service (which is only possible from a web browser – I can’t even do that from the STB – glad I’ve got a computer). I set up a new account with the same username and password (I don’t have time in my life to pick new memorable ones), and I re-enter my credit card details so they can bill me.

20:00: The sign-up form then asks me for a PIN. It’s to prevent any unauthorized purchases direct from the STB. This is good – I don’t want the kids running up a huge bill watching the same Disney film three times a day for a fortnight. To be honest, at this point I’m already getting impatient so I enter a memorable PIN – my credit card PIN – after all, no one should see it, right?

20:05: I hurry back downstairs. By this time, my wife has lost interest and is reading a magazine.

20:07: I diligently enter the username and password again: Login successful – things are looking up! Mrs Brown has now finished reading the magazine article;we are all set.

20:08: It asks me to enter the PIN, so I start typing in the numbers on the remote control keypad. Nothing’s happening. What the … ?!

20:09: It turns out I need to enter my PIN using the D-Pad on the remote to highlight and enter each number on the screen!

Now, you must understand that until now I have behaved like anyone else trying to watch a film. But because I work in security, I felt compelled to spend 5 minutes explaining just how wrong and farcical this security measure is. The whole point of the PIN is to prevent unauthorized access. And now the first time my kids watch a movie on this store they’ll have the keys to the kingdom. Great.

20:14: After my monologue, we decide that since time has flown and she’ll probably now fall asleep halfway through the film and we’ll call it quits and watch it another night.

24 minutes of faffing about with nothing to show for it. Compare this with a 1.5MB/s connection and a 1.8Gb file HD movie means if I were using file sharing I could have downloaded the movie (for free) in 20 minutes. To “compete”, paid services need to deliver content in 24 seconds, not 24 minutes to convert the sale when we’ve decided to buy.  And to keep people coming back for more, it needs to be simple and fast.

I’m not saying the systems are broken, and I’m definitely not condoning illegal file sharing. However, I am saying that the user experience has to improve if paid services are to really take off. Surely logins and payment authorization should come to me when it’s my account being used. Which device would deliver that? We are close to the end-game.