Channel 4 is shaking up its streaming service again, with the introduction of an ‘Early Access‘ feature on its paid tier, Channel 4+.
This new addition allows subscribers to watch certain shows before they are broadcast on Channel 4’s traditional linear channels (on Freeview, Freesat, etc.), and before they’re available on the free (ad-supported) tier of its streaming app.
This move aims to add more value to the Channel 4+ subscription, potentially turning it into more than just an advert-removal add-on (see more details below).
The first show to debut this feature is Big Boys Series 2, a popular comedy series known for its portrayal of university life and the challenges of growing up.
However, while the Early Access feature can be a draw for fans eager to watch the new series of Big Boys, it has also stirred some debate among viewers, with a mix of reactions on social media.
Channel 4’s Streaming Service: The Road So Far
Channel 4’s journey into streaming started with “Channel 4 Online,” a basic (at the time) platform for streaming TV shows and bonus content.
The service evolved into 4oD (4 on Demand) in 2006, marking a significant step as it became a more comprehensive on-demand platform. Here, viewers could access a wide range of Channel 4’s content for free, supported by advertising.
In 2015, 4oD underwent another transformation, rebranding to All4. Alongside this change, Channel 4 introduced All4+, a paid subscription option that allowed viewers to watch content without ads.
The latest change in Channel 4’s digital trajectory was its rebranding from All4 back to simply “Channel 4”.
This move aimed to unify the streaming service with the Channel 4 linear channel, reflecting the merging of digital and traditional TV viewing habits.
However, the rebranding has led to some confusion, as both the linear channel and streaming service are now named ‘Channel 4’, and the website Channel4.com includes content from other channels like E4 and More4 under the same umbrella
Channel 4+, The Paid Subscription Tier
Channel 4+ (previously known as All4+), the paid subscription tier of Channel 4’s streaming service, was introduced as an enhancement to the standard, ad-supported All4 platform.
Priced at £3.99 per month or £39.99 annually, it offers viewers the opportunity to enjoy their favourite shows without the interruption of adverts.
This service caters to those who hate watching TV shows and films with adverts, and it covers a vast library of Channel 4’s content, including shows from its various channels such as E4 and More4.
However, for “contractual reasons”, some programmes may still contain adverts or promotional teasers (for other Channel 4 shows) – even if you’re paying for the ad-free experience (this unfortunate part is similar on ITVX, where you also get promos on some content, even if you’re paying for ITVX Premium).
The New Channel 4+ Benefit: Early Access
Channel 4 has recently introduced an ‘Early Access’ feature to its Channel 4+ subscribers, aiming to provide added value to Channel 4+’s offering
This feature allows paying subscribers to stream certain “hit shows” before they are available on Channel 4’s linear channel and the free version of the streaming service.
The first series to benefit from this feature is Big Boys Series 2, now streaming on Channel 4+ ahead of its mid-January release on the standard linear channel and the free streaming service
Yes – all the brand new six episodes of Series 2 are now available to stream – but only if you’re willing to “upgrade” and pay for for Channel 4+.
Of course, with only one show (albeit a popular one), this is still a minor addition – but imagine giving paying users early access to new episodes of The Great British Bake Off, Married at First Sight, Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins or hit drama and comedy shows.
ITV’s streaming service, ITVX, also offers exclusive content to its ITVX Premium subscribers – via BritBox – but these days, that primarily means older content.
Additionally, while ITVX sometimes streams shows weeks or even months ahead of their broadcast on ITV’s linear channels, to date, these shows have been accessible to all ITVX users, regardless of their subscription tier. The only distinction with ITVX Premium (in this regard) is the removal of adverts.
Big Boys Series 2: What To Expect
The first show to benefit from this Early Access feature is Big Boys Series 2.
Created by Jack Rooke, Big Boys is a comedy about two mismatched boys who strike an unlikely friendship at university.
Starring Dylan Llewellyn (also known from Channel 4’s Derry Girls) and Jon Pointing, the series offers a heartwarming portrayal of the laughs and lows of a closeted teen coming of age.
The protagonist, Jack, deals with his sexuality and the recent death of his father while starting university and meeting Danny, who represents the other end of the masculinity spectrum.
The show has been praised for its honest and amusing moments, its treatment of grief with wry humour, and its exploration of the mental health struggles of young men.
In Series 2 of Big Boys, viewers can expect some exciting new additions and the return of familiar faces.
Marc Warren, known from Van Der Valk, joins the cast as Dennis, Danny’s father, while Louisa Harland from Derry Girls will portray Kerry.
Madelyn Smedley, who appeared in The Traitors, steps into the role of fresher Sally.
The new series propels the characters into their second year at Brent University in 2014. This season is set to delve into a range of university experiences, from tackling virginity anxieties and experimenting with drugs to Jack’s fixation on Alison Hammond.
Additionally, the series continues to explore the personal journey of Jack’s family as they adjust to life after his father’s passing, marking a new chapter for them.
Danny’s storyline deepens as he revisits his past and learns to manage his mental health challenges more effectively.
Series 1 is available to stream (without paying) on Channel 4’s streaming service, and Series 2 is only available – for now – on Channel 4+.
The new episodes will air on Channel 4 in mid-January, at which point they’ll also be added to Channel 4’s free (ad-supported) tier.
While an official date hasn’t been announced date, some TV guides are currently citing January 14, 2024.
While this early-access bonus is potentially good news for fans of the show, some have already taken to social media to express their discontent with having to pay to watch early.
Channel 4 trying to extort money out of me to see the new season of Big Boys early. What fresh hell is this?
— bamelie (@spacegirlgail) December 29, 2023
I thought people only had to pay to miss the adverts, so is this a new thing?
— s.miller (@simonmiller711) December 29, 2023
Others have mentioned the fact that Channel 4+ offers a free 7-day trial, so fans could potentially sign up for the free trial, watch all six episodes – and then cancel.
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