Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image

Eye on Demand | November 17, 2017

Scroll to top

Top

A&E Review

A&E Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
7
User Interface
7
Content on Offer
3.5
Device Availability
6.5
Airplay and iOS
6
6

Best on iOS

There may be a lot of channels in the US that offer selected programmes to stream online and some amazing pay-wall services, but unfortunately their free catch-up offerings are not as well developed as many other countries, such as the UK. That said, A&E could just very well be one of the better ones.

Originally known as the Arts & Entertainment Network, A&E television shortened its name to reflect the channels greater focus on drama, lifestyle and reality TV back in 1995 and today it is better known for shows like Storage Wars, the Glades, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Cold Case Files and Longmire.

A quick look at the A&E webpage will suggest quite a reasonable line-up of programming is available. But beware, not all of them are full episodes or even available for free. To access all content, you will need to have an existing cable or satellite subscription with a compatible provider, but there is still enough programming to keep most people happy – with the main catch to keep in mind that often there is only the latest episode of the most popular television series available, although less popular programmes may have a deeper range on offer.

Quality ButtonAs an American service, you should expect to find plenty of content in HD. Despite the many shortcomings of free American online catch-up services, video quality is generally one of their strengths. A&E promote their service as supporting HD, and my own tests achieved this, with the highest bitrate being a respective 720p 3320kbps*

Platform support is slightly better than the typical free American catch-up services. Don’t expect anything too outrageous, but there is a Roku channel, Android app, Web and iOS app available to access the content, with the latter offering AirPlay support.

 

  • www.aetv.com

    My original evaluation of A&E’s website was far from positive. I described it as cluttered and poorly designed, and that wasn’t me trying to be unfriendly. But, recently A&E have made a phenomenal upgrade to their website and right now I can not only say it has been greatly improved, but that I am actually impressed.

    I have to admit, I find it rather beautiful.

    Gone is the clutter and over abundance of clip-sized videos from the get-go, and now we have a full-screen website that oozes style. The first third of the home page devotes itself to a lovely highlights slideshow, that defies the traditional method employed by so many other websites. The middle third lists nothing but full episodes, whilst the final third falls into a social media category, where viewer tweets discuss a small selection of shows. All-in-all, it is such a great improvement over their previous incarnation and one of the most visually attractive catch-up websites I have seen – not just from from America, but also the world.

    Hover over the Menu button at the top of the screen, and it reveals options including Shows, Schedule, Video, Games and a Shop.

    The Video screen is the more interesting one for me, as it lists all of the available shows with full episodes as well as clips. Selecting a video will take you directly to the playback screen where any other available episodes are listed, along with further recommendations. The Playback window offers a few additional features such as hot social moments commented on by viewers, but there is no manual way to control the video quality.

    This differs somewhat from the Shows screen which displays a more generic, if creative selection of content both currently and previously aired by A&E. But not everything here has episodes currently available to watch. That said, any of the show tiles on the left-hand side will link you directly to a beautifully dedicated website for them, but I was also intrigued to what can be seen on the right-hand side, a listing for classic A&E series.

    At first, I imagined this was similar to CBS’s recent collection of timeless classic’s offering full episodes and sometimes box-sets of entire seasons. Unfortunately it is not so comprehensive, with some shows like CSI Miami offering nothing but clips. Still, there are a few full episodes on hand.

    Video quality was excellent at 720p HD levels, and looked good enough at full-screen to enjoy without too much pixelation. My own tests averaged approx 3320kbps* which were amongst the highest for A&E on all tested platforms.

    A&E also provide a schedule to their programming, which along with the rest of the website, looks absolutely stunning. Just a pity then that it is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, since I couldn’t find any way to jump directly to playback of an episode from the guide itself.

    Unfortunately, like most of most American catch-up services, access to many shows requires subscribing to a cable television operator.

    Platform Pros:

    • Easy to access for watching on a laptop or computer screen.
    • Very good video quality.
    • Beautiful design and well laid out.
    • Beautiful schedule.

    Platform Cons:

    • Sofa-unfriendly environment.
    • No ability to resume an unfinished programme.
    • No ability to log in.
    • No cross-platform support.
    • No watchlist or favourites.
    • Live streams require cable contract.
    • Schedule does not directly link available episodes.

    (Accessing A&E from outside of the US may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    Catch-up BUTTON HD BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19173″]

  • Best Choice StampLike most good television catch-up services, A&E provide a dedicated iOS app that can be found on the American iTunes app store, and like their website, A&E’s iOS app has recently survived an impressive visual overhaul. There is no advertising to clog up the limited screen real estate and almost all pages are both clean and informative.

    Upon firing up the iPad app, you are greeted with a pleasant Featured home page that provides a static look at what A&E are currently plugging. Tap a show and you are taken straight to its programme page where full episodes are listed when available by default and clearly separated from the clips – presuming there are full episodes to be watched. Here, you can add your favourite programs to a Watchlist so that you can access them quicker, which immediately becomes quite handy.

    A&E iphone5A full list of available programmes can be found in the Shows tab and any new content is sorted in the Just Added tab, of which can no longer be drilled down by series. While we are still discussing the user interface, at the top right of any screen can be found three buttons: The Schedule, of which is little more than a non-interactive television guide based on upcoming events, forgetting the fact that this is a catch-up app. Basic settings, where you can control a couple of actions or read their FAQs, and the most interesting of all, the Watchlist (accessed via the eye symbol reminiscent of CBS’s logo at the top of the screen)

    One thing did irritate me, which was that the Show’s screen can’t be filtered down to only display series containing full episodes. I just don’t get the concept of clips, and certainly not a link that only leads to clips. If it’s not currently being broadcasted, it has no place here – at least in my opinion.

    The Watchlist is split into Continue Watching and Queue, with both being quite self explanatory. Here you can find your unfinished programmes. If you look carefully directly underneath the preview window, you can even find a bar graph that hints at what level you last ended the show. And quite thoughtfully, programmes mistakenly played for a few seconds before ending are not added to this list.

    The Queue is where you add programmes or series that you want quick access to, or simply to keep track of for future viewing. Shows can easily be manually deleted in either list.

    The iPhone version offers pretty much the same services but in a smaller package and thankfully they haven’t skipped a few features which some other networks have been guilty of doing. Swiping left or right from the home screen displays alternative featured content, and the watchlist which is accessed via the left-hand menu will inform you if new material is available.

    Video quality is very good, and after the dynamic adjustments were made based on my bandwidth at the time, video quality averaged 2350kbps*. Although not quite HD, this enhanced SD stream looked great not only via the smaller iPad and iPhone screens, but also pretty good on our larger television via AirPlay.

    AirPlay ButtonUnlike most commercial American television catch-up services, A&E offer proper AirPlay that doesn’t require mirroring. Full-screen, high quality HD streams can be sent to your main television and enjoyed. This is however let down by the fact that there is no AirPlay multitasking, which means your iOS device is dedicated to the task at hand, nor can the device be switched off.

    Unfortunately, with all the upgrades added to the visual appearance, no one had bothered to place the AirPlay button direct on the playback screen where it should be, rather than being forced to access the iPad’s multitasking screen – but it is just pleasant to be able to airplay free commercial American television without mirroring.

    Despite the availability of a Roku channel which always makes Eye on-Demand happy, the best platform award stays with iOS due to the ability to resume started shows along with cloud syncing with other iOS devices.

    Platform Pros:

    • AirPlay support.
    • Watchlist and Queue.
    • Cloud syncing between iOS devices.
    • Ability to resume previously started shows.
    • Timeline on Watchlist thumbnails.
    • Video over cellular option.

    Platform Cons:

    • No AirPlay multitasking or direct access to AirPlay button.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Live streams require contract with cable or satellite operator.
    • Shows and Just Added sections can no longer be drilled down by series.
    • No HD streams.
    • None of the classic shows found on the webpage.

    (Accessing A&E outside of the US may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    Catch-up BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON Time Bar BUTTON SD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON AirPlay BUTTON

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18165″]

  • If there is one thing we appreciate the most here at Eye on-Demand, it’s the ability to watch television on a real TV. Mobile platforms or laptops are fine when traveling, but we have very little love for television on a standard desktop. Television quite simply still belongs on a television, which is why I am rather impressed that A&E have made an effort to bring their catch-up service to Roku, and without the forced cable subscription that so often blights and restricts American catch-up television.

    Unfortunately, the network has made much less effort on the Roku user interface than they have with other platforms, opting here to use the generic Roku templates rather than their own high quality efforts present on their web page.

    Still, it covers many of the more important aspects, mainly the ability to set programmes (and even entire series) to the watchlist, and high quality, full-screen video playback. In fact, the video quality here is the highest I have seen on all the tested platforms, and the closest to real HD.

    There are not a lot of other features though. Woefully missing is a resume option when returning to previously started material and the classic content found on the webpage is nowhere to be seen here.

    If it added some of these basic options it probably would make best platform despite the generic Roku UI, as we just love television on a TV, but the lack of these is just a little too hard to ignore.

    Quality ButtonVideo quality was excellent, with an average bitrate tested by us at 2940kbps*. Although this is slightly below true 720p HD, it was so close we couldn’t visually tell the difference.

    Unfortunately, there was no FFW or REW thumbnails anywhere to be seen. In fact, the very action itself seems rather clumsy and awkward, almost like it tries to avoid any rapid movements in the event of a headache forming. Certainly, if I was to try to find a specific spot in a movie, I would also probably get a headache here.

    Platform Pros:

    • Perfect sofa-friendly UI.
    • High quality near HD video stream.
    • Watchlist for episode or entire series.
    • Ability to watch some content without a cable subscription.

    Platform Cons:

    • No Resume feature.
    • No classic episodes.
    • No cross-platform support.
    • Some odd visual artifacts when dynamic bitrate changes.
    • Poor FFW & REW action.

    (Accessing A&E via Roku outside of the US requires a US Roku box and Smart DNS service)

    Catch-up BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON HD BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18174″]

  • One by one A&E slowly adds another platform to its list of supported devices, with the latest finding its arrival onto the Apple TV.

    Expect the standard Apple TV treatment for layout and design, which here includes a horizontal scrolling highlights list at the top of the screen, along with a selection of shows as you scroll downwards. To be honest, outside of the Watchlist, this is about it, with no segregation by genres or categories. Although, there probably is not enough content here to warrant that.

    As with other platforms, there is no guarantee whether a show listed includes any actual episodes, as many are just populated by pointless clips. And when they do, they may still end up being locked unless your bank account is emptied on a regular basis by one of the participating cable or satellite operators.

    Quality ButtonWhen you do find full length episodes, video plays back in otherwise excellent quality, averaging a bitrate of 2950kbps in my own tests. Generally speaking, this is a tad below true 720p HD, but to be honest I couldn’t really tell the difference visually.

    Like many other A&E platforms, there is a Watchlist here, but on this app you can only add individual episodes and not not any actual television series. This is rather odd, and is compounded by the lack of any true episode management.

    Fast forward and rewind takes on the usual Apple TV implementation utilizing three speed settings, but no thumbnails to guide you along.

    All in all, the platform functions, but it really lacks features found on the iOS app.

    Platform Pros:

    • HD (or near enough) quality streams.
    • Watchlist for single episodes supported.
    • Resume possible.
    • Recently Watched list.

    Platform Cons:

    • No Watchlist for series.
    • No FFW/REW thumbnail.
    • No cross-platform support.
    • No episode management.

    (Accessing Lifetime outside of the US may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

    Catch-up BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON HD BUTTON Resume BUTTON Recently Watched BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    This service is geographically unblocked on this platform by the following Smart DNS providers:

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”18165″]

  • There is no doubt that American television streaming services offer something special when behind a pay-wall. Hulu Plus is quite simply amazing, and shows the world how to aggregate catch-up from a myriad of sources to multiple platforms – with style. Unfortunately, the United States is not quite so well served in the free catch-up world, where platform support and the availability of content is often quite restricted.

    This is why A&E’s catch-up service comes as quite a pleasant surprise. A&E not only offer a good range of content for free, but with acceptable quality streams and the ability to easily watch on your main television via Roku, Apple TV or their iOS app airplaying to the Apple TV.

    For those considering accessing A&E via Hulu, you may want to think again however. Many A&E programmes are only available via the free version of Hulu rather than Hulu Plus, which means there is no real platform advantage to aid bringing the content to your main television screen. In addition to that, unlike many other networks present on Hulu, there is no great advantage to content availability as even Hulu can not provide more than the latest current episode.

    Pros:

    • Good quality HD video streams.
    • Supports AirPlay.
    • Roku channel!
    • No advertisements (at time of press) during content playback.

    Cons:

    • Not all content is available for free.
    • No offline downloads.
    • No cross-platform support.
    • No live streams (outside of additional cable contracts)

    Technical Details:

    • New episodes are generally added the morning after they air.
    • Content is often restricted to the last episode of popular dramas and more for selected reality shows.
    • Windows 7 requires IE9, IE8, Chrome (v23+), Firefox (v14 +)
    • Windows XP requires IE8, IE7, Chrome (v23+), Firefox (v14 +)
    • Mac OS X requires Chrome (v23+), Firefox (v14 +), Safari 6.0.1+
    • Flash 10.2 + is required on computer browsers.
    • Parental controls are only enabled from a participating cable or satellite provider’s site and carried over to the streaming account.
    • Closed Captioning supported (CC)

     Log:

    25.07.2013: Review Published: Score: 6 – Best on iOS

    08.08.2013: Review updated with additional iOS details due to app update.

    30.10.2013: Review updated with tested bitrates & additional iOS details: Score dropped to 5.6 due to failed ability to access HD streams.

    14.02.2014: Updated and complete overhaul: Score increased to 5.8.

    05.05.2014: Updated with additional tests, ATV review and overhaul. Score updated to 6.

    * Bitrate tests were based on multiple averages and are subject to both the geographical location and ISP bandwidth at the time.

     

    Found this review helpful? Why not like us on Facebook and help others find it?

     

     

Comments

  1. Fatih

    Thanks for the review. But this is one of the most useless free video-on-demand services. I couldn’t find anything to watch without a cable/satellite login.

    • I guess content is subjective to each of us. Longmire would be my favourite TV show from A&E. Basically, it’s a cop drama set around a small town sheriff without the high tech of many modern crime shows.