The Movie Network has launched a new streaming video service in Canada called TMN GO that is designed to work on smartphones, tablets, and home computers. It’s a slick, impressive service that makes it surprisingly easy to find content and play it quickly. It includes the same selection of movies and HBO Canada content that has already been available through their cable and satellite On Demand service, and because it’s still tied to and included as part of those subscriptions, has the advantage of being marketed as free.
At launch TMN GO is available through tmngo.ca with support for all major web browsers and through an app for iPhone and iPad. Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry versions of the app are expected to come later. Similarly, the service is limited first to Bell and Cogeco subscribers, with support for Rogers coming in mid-March and other providers across Canada to follow. For those without television service, plans are in motion to offer TMN GO by other means, including adding it to the line-up on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console and Samsung’s Smart TVs.
The menu systems live large with splashy movie art, making it easy to see the titles on offer, but also emphasizing The Movie Network’s desire to be associated more with the theatrical side of movie watching, rather than the small box layout we tend to think of with rental services. Both Netflix and Cineplex launched their online networks in Canada with a limited selection of Hollywood content, and so this big screen presentation by TMN of their catalog helps emphasize their advantage in having a full selection at the ready too.
It can take as little as two clicks to dive into a video. Aside from a brief TMN logo and rating introduction, videos play quickly and with beautiful quality. Subtitles and support for different languages are included. You can adjust the quality to cater to your monthly data needs, choosing between 300 MB per hour for “Good” playback or up to 2.5 GB per hour for “Ultimate”. You can also set the app to refuse playback unless you’re connected to a Wi-Fi source if you need to conserve your cellular connection.
Videos can be paused, scrubbed quickly throughout the timeline, and resumed even if you sign off and return days later. A blue halo around the play button marks just how far you are in the film and if it really is days until you come back, a small box will appear at the menu screen to remind you of movies still in progress. You’ll find a number of subtle and helpful visual cues and tools that show there’s been some thought put into the kind of needs that pop up as you get deeper into the service.
Playback is limited to five devices, of which three can be used to stream different movies at the same time. You can set up separate accounts for each person in the household with private watch lists to match. Adding titles to your list is a simple drag-and-drop move or you can click on the plus sign next to each title or next to an entire show series. Movies that you have been watched won’t disappear from the catalog as they do on Netflix, instead a small checkmark on the movie art appears to show its status.
The catalog is organized fluidly with box art tiles and nicely presented playlists for HBO shows. Tapping on the artwork flips it over for running times, descriptions, ratings, and even trailers and additional related content. It’s a very modern and attractive design that keeps up with the standards being set by today’s music, photography, and video creation apps.
Parental controls combined with a separate account and watch list for kids can be used to create a kind of Kids Mode, allowing you to safely hand your device to a little one knowing that they won’t access mature content. It’s a good start, but over time I’d like to see The Movie Network designate either a separate section or app devoted to family and children content.
With many content services I find it hard to work out what’s a new release amid all the attempts to promote overlooked content. TMN GO has an “Upcoming” section for that reason and uses their promotion tiles to push new content as well. You can even use the app to look up when titles will be playing on traditional television too.
TMN GO is a far more polished and ready online service than I’m used to seeing launch in Canada. It delivers more than just a fast and high quality playback movie experience, but a thoughtful system for discovering movies, saving them to play lists, and keeping track of what’s new. Many new services promise to launch on other smartphones and non-subscription systems, but this one has arrived so complete I think we can count on that actually happening here.