TalkTalk is shutting down its TalkTalk TV Store, blocking customers’ access to digital films they have previously purchased, thus bringing a fresh wave of concerns about what it really means to “own” a digital movie.
In a digital age where streaming services have rapidly overshadowed DVD collections, the notion of owning content has become increasingly complex.
The TalkTalk TV Store ceased new purchases back in 2021, yet allowed users to continue enjoying their already purchased content.
However, this assurance has now been revoked, with customers being notified that the store will shut down completely on October 31, 2023 – and users who own films on the platform have until then to watch them, before they’ll be lost forever.
It’s important to note that this closure will not affect TalkTalk’s current streaming TV platform (see more details below).
However, the upcoming closure of the VOD store, as first reported by Film Stories, has sparked a broader discussion about what ownership really means in the digital streaming age.
TalkTalk TV Store’s Rocky Journey
TalkTalk’s venture with its digital Video On Demand (VOD) store has faced its share of ups and downs.
After a previous version of the store (known as Blinkbox and owned by Tesco) was closed in 2018, some non-TalkTalk customers had their purchased titles transferred to Rakuten (which also offers VOD rentals and purchases) – a courtesy that is not being extended this time around.
Instead, a compensation plan is in place, although some customers apparently find it lacking.
The exact details of the compensation are unclear, but one user, on TalkTalk’s community forums, reported being offered £25, which he claims is less than the total value of his purchased films.
Additionally, some users are claiming they were told the compensation depends on whether they have recently watched their owned movies or not.
The official comment given to Cord Busters from a TalkTalk spokesperson refutes this, and emphasizes the company’s attempt to find a resolution for all affected customers:
“We have created a route for resolution for all customers irrespective of whether they have watched their content, and communicated with them directly.”
Still, the somewhat vague nature of the compensation and the sudden loss of access to owned content has left many unsatisfied.
The TalkTalk TV Store, once a lively digital marketplace for film enthusiasts, became a mere viewing platform for previously purchased content in the past two years.
With fewer than a hundred people affected by this closure, according to TalkTalk, the impact might seem small, but the implications are significant in the digital domain.
The TalkTalk community forums are abuzz with unhappy customers expressing their frustrations over the TV Store closure.
The disappointment is palpable as users face the reality of losing access to their digital film collections. The compensation offered, according to some, does not cover the monetary and emotional investment made over the years.
The Illusion Of Digital Ownership
The situation at TalkTalk is a clear example of a much larger issue – the uncertain nature of digital ownership.
Unlike a physical DVD or Blu-ray, digital purchases depend on the platform’s stability and terms of service. When you buy a digital copy of a film, you’re essentially getting a license to view the content, not owning the content itself.
It’s a subtle difference, but a crucial one, especially when platforms decide to shut down services or change their rules.
The digital era, celebrated for its convenience and wide range, often puts consumers in a tricky position regarding ownership.
The access to vast libraries of films and series is undoubtedly appealing, yet the conditions tied to these digital assets often become apparent only when services close, change ownership, or alter their terms – as seen in a few similar cases in the past.
Ultraviolet, a US digital video service, allowed users to buy movies, but shut down on July 31, 2019, asking users to transfer their purchases to other platforms if they wanted to keep them
On Amazon’s Prime Video, some Disney Christmas specials that had been bought by users suddenly became unavailable a few years ago, showcasing that digital purchases could vanish due to licensing issues
Warner Bros. also created a stir when it removed content from users’ digital libraries without warning. For example, a user found that two seasons of the cartoon Final Space they had bought on Amazon’s Prime Video were removed, hinting at the fragile nature of digital ownership and the control platforms have over content, even after it’s been purchased
These examples, along with TalkTalk’s upcoming closure of its TV store, point out a worrying pattern in the digital media world.
While buying digital content is easy and convenient, there’s a catch – the sense of ownership can be temporary and can change without warning, making the digital media space something to approach with care and understanding
TalkTalk’s Current TV Offer Explained
As mentioned, the closure of TalkTalk’s TV Store will not affect TalkTalk’s streaming TV platform.
TalkTalk currently has two separate TV offers, with two different boxes – one for “regular” (Fibre To The Cabinet) customers, and one for Full Fibre customers.
They all accompany the company’s broadband plans, so you can’t sign up for TalkTalk TV without being a TalkTalk Broadband customer.
TalkTalk TV Option 1: The Netgem Box
The 4K Netgem box from TalkTalk includes a variety of streaming apps (including Amazon’s Prime Video, Netflix, ITVX and more), and – by connecting an aerial – it can also be used as a Freeview box, with recordings possible via an optional USB stick.
This is first and foremost a streaming box, so it needs to connect to your broadband via WiFi. Then, you can use its streaming apps and on-demand players.
The Netgem box from TalkTalk costs £5/month, as of this writing.
Do note that you’re not getting any TV content subscriptions included in the price – so you’re basically paying for the box and its software – but you can add NOW’s memberships on top.
TalkTalk TV Option 2: The Android TV Hub
In 2022, TalkTalk launched another TV box – the TalkTalk TV Hub which is a 4K / Dolby Atmos Android TV-powered box.
The Android TV Hub supports Freeview (when you connect an aerial), Freeview Play (via broadband), as well as thousands of apps that are currently available on the Google Play Store – from the big streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer and more – to smaller, niche apps and services.
The Android TV box also has built-in Chromecast support – so you can “cast” videos and streaming services from your phones – even some that don’t have a native app on the box.
Unlike the Netgem box, TalkTalk is only offering the Android TV Box to broadband customers with Full Fibre plans – so it’s not available to all customers.
The Android TV Box normally costs £5/month, with a one-off £25 setup fee (which is waived with the current limited-time offer).
Recently, TalkTalk launched a new offer with Sky’s NOW, giving customers the opportunity to add a NOW Entertainment Membership to their TalkTalk TV package for a combined total of £9.99/month (£5 for the box and £5 for NOW), saving £60 per year.