In a world where combining broadband and TV is becoming the norm, EE has thrown its hat in the ring today, with the announcement of several new platforms – including EE TV.
In 2022, BT announced that EE would become its new “consumer-facing” brand for broadband and TV (along with mobile) – and today’s announcement is the result of that plan.
EE’s ambitious venture steps into new terrains for the company, including gaming, home security, and even insurance, promising a one-stop digital marketplace for a myriad of services and products.
Central to this initiative is the heralding of EE TV, which aims to redefine the home entertainment experience by offering a flexible linear TV service integrated with the Apple TV 4K box.
However, unlike the competing Sky Stream service, EE TV is tied to EE’s broadband service – just like the current TV offer from BT – so the “flexibility” is still somewhat limited.
Let’s take a closer look at everything EE announced today.
EE’s New All-In-One Platform
Starting this week (with some of the products only coming in a few months) EE is expanding its offerings with a new online platform, making it easier for UK consumers to access a variety of products and services.
This move is more than just about telecom – it’s about stepping into new territories like gaming, home security, and even insurance.
Central to this new platform is the new ‘EE ID’, which will be open to everyone in the UK – including those without EE broadband.
The EE ID will let customers of the platform order and control everything EE offers under one login, without having to switch accounts when they want to order gaming equipment, manage entertainment subscriptions or order gadgets.
Under this new platform, you’ll find different sections or categories. For instance, there’s a section where you can manage your internet and mobile subscriptions, making it simple to keep track of your monthly plans.
There’s also a new shop for browsing and buying electronics, so if you’re into gadgets, this might catch your fancy.
Gaming enthusiasts aren’t left out – there’s a section dedicated just to gaming, with Microsoft being a partner – therefore you’ll be able to buy Xbox devices, games and even top-up cards, right from the EE app.
Besides these new shopping categories, EE is also boosting its broadband service, launching a super-fast broadband tier called EE Fibre 1.6Gbps – This is touted as the fastest home broadband speed among major providers in the UK.
Of course, this speed sounds great on paper – but in practice, its availability depends on Openreach’s fibre availability in your area – and that is still quite limited around the UK.
As part of EE’s new broadband service, customers will be able to choose (via the app) special “modes” – such as ‘Gaming’ and ‘Work From Home’, which will then prioritise certain broadband aspects (so your Xbox gets a priority, for example).
Lastly, if you’re an EE Broadband customer, you will have the option to add mobile plans with unlimited data on a flexible 30-day basis from just £10/month.
In simple terms, EE is launching a new online marketplace with different sections for various services and products, along with faster broadband options, although the super-fast broadband might not be available for everyone across the country.
While it’s convenient to to have everything in one place – especially if you ARE an EE broadband/TV customer – it still is, basically, an online store.
EE TV: What’s It All About?
For the readers of Cord Busters, the centrepiece of EE’s announcement is the unveiling of EE TV, which aims to replace BT TV and serve as a flexible linear TV service catering to modern households – and based on broadband instead of over-the-air.
The new EE TV platform will offer subscribers a choice between three devices – the EE TV Pro Box (and its ‘Mini’ version) – which is identical to the current BT TV 4K Pro Box, and the new Apple TV 4K EE Box.
EE Integration With Apple TV 4K
One of the hallmark features of EE TV is its integration with Apple TV 4K, marking a notable first in the UK.
This integration will allow users to access a fully integrated EE TV service with live Freeview channels – on their Apple TV 4K.
Subscribers will get an EE-branded Apple TV 4K streaming box, which will have the unique EE app already installed, as well as an EE-branded remote.
Customers who want to watch in multiple rooms, will be able to get more devices (either Apple TV, or the EE TV Pro Mini box) – without having to pay extra every month (though they might have to pay a one-time fee for another device).
The EE app on the Apple TV will feature a bespoke TV guide which will combine the UK’s linear channels along with on-demand content from the big broadcasters’ apps (and yes, it sounds a lot like Freeview Play).
But, instead of having to rely on over-the-air transmissions, it will stream the live channels via broadband.
Freeview-over-broadband is already offered on BT TV’s existing 4K Pro box, so it’s good to see it ported over to the Apple TV platform as well.
It’s important to note, however, that not every Freeview channel is currently available via streaming on BT TV, and it’s safe to assume this limited selection will be identical on EE TV.
However, we were also told by BT that the Freeview channels selection on the new Apple TV EE platform, will not necessarily be identical to the selection on the BT TV / EE TV Pro boxes – so it’s possible some Freeview channels will be available on one box, and not on the other – or not available at all (without an aerial).
And of course, with the Apple TV being a streaming-only box, there won’t be an aerial fallback option.
EE TV: Not For Everyone
There are two big limitations to EE’s new TV service:
First, the new EE TV app for Apple TV is exclusive to the special EE-branded version of Apple TV, meaning retail Apple TV boxes won’t support this app.
This exclusivity might dampen the excitement for those who already own a retail version of Apple TV.
Second, just like BT TV, the new EE TV platform will only be available to EE TV Broadband subscribers – so it’s not a truly standalone TV product (unlike the Sky Stream puck, for example, which works with any broadband provider).
EE TV vs BT TV
When compared to BT TV, the platform EE TV is set to replace, there aren’t many differences other than the new Apple TV option – at least from what we know so far.
BT TV currently offers several bundles that combine channels and streaming services – Netflix, Sky’s NOW (Entertainment, Cinema and Sky Sports), TNT Sports, and more.
Subscribers to BT TV also get the 4K Pro Box (as a loan) as part of their subscription – which allows for Freeview watching either via an aerial, or via broadband.
The BT TV Box Pro also supports quite a few streaming apps – Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, NOW and more, as well as all the standard catch-up streaming apps – BBC iPlayer, ITVX, Channel 4, My5, UKTV Play, S4C, STV Player and BBC Sounds.
The regular prices range from £20/month for the Entertainment plan, to £18/month for the TNT Sports bundle, and up to £76/month for the VIP plan that includes everything (all prices are currently discounted on BT TV).
With the new EE TV service only launching in a few months, prices haven’t been revealed yet – but they will probably be quite similar to BT TV’s current pricing scheme – though the Apple TV 4K option may change things a bit.
It’s worth noting that current BT TV customers will be able to remain with BT (and BT Broadband) for the foreseeable future, though over time they will start getting promotional “nudges” to switch over to EE TV.
Even if they do switch – they can keep their current BT TV 4K Pro box, which will continue to work – as its identical to the upcoming EE TV Pro box.
EE TV vs Sky Stream and Virgin Media Stream
Sky Stream has garnered attention for its no-strings-attached service, allowing consumers to access its service without any mandatory broadband subscriptions, providing a truly standalone service.
Virgin Media Stream, however, is similar to the new EE TV offer in that it requires a broadband connection – from Virgin Media in this case.
In terms of the channels and bundles they offer, the three boxes are somewhat similar (with premium streaming services, channels and Freeview via broadband) with each company giving the interface its own spin.
Once EE TV fully launches, in a few months, we’ll be able to do a more detailed comparison which includes the pricing.
First Impressions: Is The Flexibility Real?
Any competition in the pay-TV space which brings more options to consumers is good, especially when it brings another fresh solution for Freeview without the need for an aerial.
However, the requirement to be an EE broadband customer to access this service is somewhat disappointing – with that limitation, EE TV can’t fully compete with Sky Stream, unless you happen to have broadband from BT / EE (or are willing to switch).
Furthermore, with Freeview planning to launch ‘Freely’ next year – a standalone, free freeview-over-broadband service – customers may find they don’t need pay-TV companies like EE (or Sky, or Virgin Media) to facilitate their TV watching (did anyone say TV cord cutting?).
All in all, the new EE TV service currently appears to be a rebranded version of the BT TV platform, now with a new Apple TV EE option.
The full potential of EE TV will be better judged once the pricing details are revealed, and the performance of the Apple TV app is assessed – so we’ll have to wait a few extra months.
Hopefully, EE will consider opening up the EE TV service to non-broadband customers and possibly even extend the app to other devices, to offer a truly flexible TV service.
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