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Eye on Demand | November 17, 2017

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Watchever Review

Watchever Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
6
User Interface
7
Content on Offer
6.5
Device Availability
6.5
Value for Money
8
6.8

Offline Downloads & HBO!

How about a Netflix-style streaming service with not only one, but two killer features that stand it aside from any other – offline downloads and HBO content! So, what’s the catch…?

Watchever is a German based on-demand service that follows a similar concept to Netflix, at least via their online streaming content – that is, a contract-free subscription package under €10 per month with a wide variety of films and box-set television series within the second pay-TV window.

Germany hasn’t really been the fasted country to adopt catch-up and on-demand television, with its national television channels quite a bit behind the world leader’s such as the UK or US. In fact, as of the time of this review’s original publication, Netflix was nowhere to be seen within the borders of Europe’s most populous country. Still, there has been a sudden jump in new or updated services within the last few months, but few have made as big headlines in Germany as Watchever.

Lovefilm DE has been around for a while in Germany, but it never really took off, and popularity outside of the country was restricted to a few die-hard German speakers since it removed nearly every original soundtrack and replaced it with a German dubbed one.

Watchever on the other hand has made a few executive decisions that could very well give it a truly impressive lead over its rivals. One of them is to include as much as possible the original soundtracks to foreign television shows and movies. This may sound like normal practice in much of the world, but the average German has very little concept how real actors outside their country really sound – German television services dub nearly everything. For Watchever to offer bulk content in their original language, is an incredibly groundbreaking concept in Germany.

Movie ButtonAdd to the fact that their content includes selected HBO shows. Let’s not go overboard here and imagine everything from HBO is available, but there is certainly more than most other equivalent services, which is something to take into account. Overall, Watchever’s library is smaller than what you can expect from Netflix, but it still has a vast range. Unofficial sources suggest there may be as many as 2300 films and around 228 different television seasons.

Keep in mind, Watchever work predominantly within the 2nd pay-TV window. This means new releases arrive on Watchever about the same time as they do on DVD, unless of course their main competitor, Lovefilm.de or Maxdome grabs the exclusive rights on a title. This means you will have to wait behind iTunes, Sky or other premium cable/satellite or PPV streaming services to catch the very latest films.

Quality ButtonVideo quality is average, with maximum quality tipping out at 720p HD on the Apple TV. There are no 1080p streams yet as Netflix are so proud of, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that comes in time. Not every show however is in HD and my own tests showed few platforms seemed to actually provide it, even though the content was advertised as such. Perhaps this was related to issues within my own network, which can not be ruled out, but it is something I will be looking into deeper in the future.

Finally, platform support is one of the widest in Germany for on-demand services. Access is not only via the PlayStation 4, web and mobile devices, but there is also a rare non-American Apple TV app as well!

  • €8.99 per month.
  • No contract, can cancel at any time.
  • 30 day free trial available.
  • All content within Watchever is available under that price.

 

  • www.watchever.de

    Watchever’s website opens up as festival of thumbnails. Film and television posters that will fill your screen as if it were taken directly from Netflix’s own website, if a little darker in hue. As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and if Watchever wasn’t too keen to develop their own website design, why not use the global industry standard as their template?

    In any event, it works well enough here. Regardless of the language your computer is set to, everything on this website will be in German (or Denglisch), bar of course the content itself in which a great deal is offered with an original language soundtrack.

    The top of the web page offers the usual Watchever options, Home, Serien (TV Series), Filme, Kids and Mein Programm (My Library) as well as the account and search buttons.

    Mein Programm is where you will find your Watchlist, and Watchever do this quite well, with both a watchlist for films or TV shows that you want to keep track of, as well as a list showing what you have already watched – a list I should point out that you can’t edit, just in case you want to hide that embarrassing addiction to trash television you don’t want your partner to find out about.

    All that said, what is seriously missing is visual guide within a series as to what episodes have been watched. Netflix does this perfectly, clearly showing you which episodes are complete, and automatically taking you to the very next one. Watchever does automate the process as well, but it keeps everything to itself and only takes you to the next episode.

    Drilling down through genres can be done either via hovering menu options or a side panel that opens up, and the hover route is also used when you move over movie or series thumbnails where you can either bring up more information or directly start a film. Click outside the play, watchlist or info button and you are taken directly to the full dedicated page – an improvement on Netflix which never ceases to irritate me by starting the film immediately.

    Video quality is claimed to be HD, but in my opinion it was very good, but not quite there. I saw noticeable graininess in video playback and it lacked the sharp edges I would expect from a 720p stream, let along the amazing 1080p Netflix offers. Still, a good deal of people wouldn’t notice the difference and be satisfied with the results, especially if you use Watchever on a laptop for travel purposes.

    Platform Pros:

    • Can set preferred language for playback (OV or German).
    • Can change soundtrack during playback.
    • HD officially claimed as available.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • Resume function.
    • Excellent Watchlist.

    Platform Cons:

    • Not the most sofa-friendly of environments.
    • Video quality a little grainy and not up to usual HD standards.
    • No profiles.
    • No offline downloads.
    • No visual episode tracking.

    (Accessing Watchever outside of Germany may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

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

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  • Best Choice StampAt first Watchever’s iOS app (found only in the German iTunes store) may seem like an odd choice for our best platform award. After-all, HD streams are not available and although there is an AirPlay option, the lack of high resolution streams doesn’t translate as well on the big screen as it does on the mobile one – and we hide nothing at Eye on-Demand when it comes to our preference for watching television on the main screen.

    But outside of the resolution disappointment, Watchever via iOS has one huge claim to fame, but I’ll get to that later.

    First of all, Watchever’s somewhat clunky user interface is carried across to this platform, but thoughtfully the menu’s will appear in English if you have your iOS device set to that language – the only platform tested that provides this. (Although film titles in German will of course remain as such). Just keep in mind that you don’t have to drill too deeply down through menus before that English swiftly turns back into German.

    The very bottom of the iPad screen has six options, Home, Series, Movies, Kids, My Library and My Account, most of which are pretty self explanatory. The iPhone is similar minus the dedicated Kids tab, but you can filter this down to family or kids shows from the other tabs.

    iPhoneMy Library on the other hand is effectively your Watchlist, The place where you can set your Bookmarks, Already Watched shows, and content available offline, or known here as Travel-Ready Items. The rest is dedicated to social connections via Facebook, where every dreary episode of rubbish your kids may watch will be broadcasted for all your Facebook friends to see.

    When you select a film or TV show, a dedicated screen appears which may include a trailer as well as additional information on cast and what others watched. Playback is however limited to standard definition.

    AirPlay is supported, so you can easily watch this SD stream on your big TV, but there are no multitasking options. If you switch off the iPad’s screen to save both power and the planet, Watchever will not approve.

    Finally, the trump card. Both the iPhone and iPad app allow offline downloads. For a more detailed look into this amazing feature, hit the dedicated tab above, but this alone makes the iOS version of Watchever by far my favourite. Sure, if I am watching a film in the living room I will without doubt opt for the Apple TV or PS4 app, but Watchever’s offline feature is so alluring, I am tempted to return to subscription prior to any major travel.

    Platform Pros:

    • Offline downloads.
    • Menu’s available in English if your device is set to that language.
    • Trailers available for selected films.
    • Watch full feature directly from trailer.
    • Bookmark option.
    • Television syncing possible (untested).
    • Dedicated kids section on iPad.
    • Watchlist.
    • Supports AirPlay.

    Platform Cons:

    • No HD streams.
    • No dedicated kids section on iPhone.
    • Films may be in OV, but trailers are often still dubbed.
    • Subtitles button always greyed out.
    • Some cross-platform features like Resume didn’t shift to this device.
    • No AirPlay multitasking.
    • No Profiles.
    • No visual episode tracking.

    (Accessing Watchever outside of Germany may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19245″]

  • Somehow, despite the PlayStation 4 being the newest platform reviewed for this service, Watchever has missed the proverbial design train. I wouldn’t go as far as saying Watcher’s PS4 app is unpleasant, but it does lack the sophistication found in most of the main competition whether that be Netflix, Hulu Plus or the Amazon Prime app.

    What we do have is a well laid out, if clunky user interface that gets the job done, efficiently but without standing out above the rest. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

    In any event, everything here is in German, even if your PlayStation’s default language is English. The top of the screen offers the five main options found on the iPad, Home, Serien (TV Series), Filme, Kids and Mein Programm (My Library) as well as the account and search buttons. Directly underneath are further drilling options, however, if your German skills are not up to scratch, some of these may seem a little long-winded (Germans do have a somewhat over inflated sense of syllable), but you will soon get the grasp of what each section means.

    Fast Forward and Rewind are performed via the L2 and R2 buttons on the DualShock controller but are limited to one minute jumps in either direction with no thumbnail guide as to where you are in a programme. This is rather unfortunate to be honest, and although fast to skip through long films, it lacks the delicacy expected and often required. Miss a word and you have to jump back a whole minute.

    The L1 and R1 buttons on the other hand offer an even more bizarre control – switching between episodes. This may sound in theory like a a good idea, and to be honest, with so many buttons on the controller, why not keep this for rainy days, but I can’t honestly see a time when I need to flick through episodes via dedicated buttons, especially as it many episodes start with identical intros.

    Watchever are one of the few PS4 media apps I have seen that has provided a guide for controlling via the DualShock. In any event, here is a quick rundown.

    PS4 Controller Watchever

    Video quality is officially described as high definition on many titles. My own tests varied, but although I noticed the playback was somewhat grainy, and my tests couldn’t exceed 1600kbps* (equivalent to Netflix’s standard definition and very far from their stunning 5800kbps 1080p HD top-end), it was still good enough for most purposes. Still, although encryption methods vary dramatically, 1600kbps is generally seen within the industry as an SD stream, so calling it HD is a tad cheeky.

    Platform Pros:

    • HD Streams available.
    • Includes guide for DualShock.
    • Resume feature available.
    • Watchlist available.
    • Cross-platform compatible.

    Platform Cons:

    • German text only available despite alternative language PS4 may be set in.
    • FFW & REW limited to 1 minute jumps.
    • No FFW and REW thumbnails.
    • No subtitle control.
    • Global OV or German setting has no effect.
    • Cluttered UI.
    • DualShock controller often requires two hands.
    • No Trailers.
    • No Profiles.
    • No visual episode tracking.

    (Accessing Watchever outside of Germany may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19245″]

  • Of all the Watchever platforms currently tested in this review, the Apple TV would be my personal choice to watch content on my main television. Not so much because of the outdated ATV user interface, which is nothing more than their stock standard used in plenty of other streaming apps, but primarily because of the improved video quality.

    The Apple TV demonstrated the best quality picture on test, and the only one I would describe as high definition. Don’t get me wrong, this still looked nothing like the 1080p HD seen through Netflix, but I would describe it as a very good 720p stream.

    The UI language is predominantly German even when the Apple TV is set to English, but the odd phrase in English crops up every now and again, such as when resuming started shows. No doubt, ATVs fully in German won’t see this.

    FFW and REW are thankfully far more refined than the PS4 version, with slight increments possible. You can still leap a minute in either direction, but this is achieved through different buttons. That improvement is welcomed, but I would still like to see thumbnail style navigation as possible in some Netflix or Hulu platforms, but that will never happen on an Apple TV without a 3rd party app store.

    Speaking of the remote, pressing the up button during playback brings a welcome info screen floating on top of the video displaying episode or film information, handy especially if you want to make sure you are really watching the next episode since there is no indication anywhere else.

    Press select when in this view and a hidden control panel pops up, allowing you to select subtitles and the audio tracks – well, it would if it had any effect. I tried switching off the German subtitles during the film Anvil, but this made no difference, and on dual-track films there was only one soundtrack available – listed as unknown.

    All that aside, this is a solid platform and my current choice for Watchever on a proper TV.

    Platform Pros:

    • Best video quality seen in this review.
    • Standard, no-frills but functional UI.
    • Watchlist for watched and bookmarked content.
    • Resume possible.
    • Cross-platform support.
    • Small FFW & REW increments possible.
    • On-screen episode & film info via up button.

    Platform Cons:

    • German text only available despite alternative language ATV may be set in.
    • No FFW or REW thumbnails.
    • No visual episode tracking.
    • No ability to manually change audio track.
    • No ability to select default language (German or OV), instead it takes this from other platforms.
    • Subtitle and audio track selection seems broken.

    (Accessing Watchever outside of Germany may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service)

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19245″]

  • This is where things get really exciting.

    If there is one killer feature, well, besides access to selected HBO content, that I would recommend subscribing to this service, it would without doubt be the offline access.

    It is absolutely amazing how rare this feature is. Even the global on-demand leader, Netflix has shown no signs of offering offline downloads. The only other streaming services I know that do this are ViaPlay from Scandanvia, which differs in that it is more like a cable television service over the Internet, and the BBC iPlayer and 4oD from the UK, the only catch-up services in the world that offers this.

    Watchever on the other hand, is a Netflix-style contract-free on-demand streaming service and it could very well be the only one of its type that provides this feature.

    This makes Watchever a near perfect companion for travelers or people who want to watch content whilst commuting. Simply download your films and television shows to your mobile device, and enjoy when on the move, regardless of whether you have a wireless signal or not.

    Offline buttonSimply navigate the mobile apps as you would normally, and when you find content you want to download, just tap the download button. In television series, there will be a download button beside each episode.

    The way Watchever handles offline downloads is a little odd however. You must first head to My Account and select Travel Mode. Here you will find a list of downloaded content that can be played, but you must first toggle the device into Travel Mode, limiting the normal service of the app. In travel mode, only the downloaded content can be played, and you then must tap the My Library button to access them.

    Outside of Travel Mode, you can still see offline content in My Library, but it will try streaming them from your network rather than playing from downloaded copy.

    Oh, when downloading onto an iOS device, you’ll be happy to know that you can also AirPlay content to an Apple TV. So, it may very well be worth throwing that tiny black puck into your suitcase (along with an HDMI cable!) so you have something to watch on your hotel television other than CNN (listen-up business travelers!)

    • Available on iPhone, iPad and selected Android smart phones and tablets.
    • 30 days to watch, 48 hours once begun.
    • 25 shows of which 5 can be films, as long as enough memory is present.

     

  • Subscribing to Watchever is a breeze if you are currently in Germany, or if you are a German abroad with a German address and credit card at your convenience – Smart DNS or VPN service aside. If you don’t have a German credit card then things can be a little more complex. There are a few ways to get around this, with a number of companies on the internet selling Watchever subscription cards and sending them overseas or via a German PayPal account.

    An alternative way to subscribe to Watchever is through iTunes if you own or have access to an Apple TV. You can then easily create a free trial with Watchever using a German iTune account (See here for instructions on creating an iTunes account in a different country). When you sign up for your free month’s trial at Watchever, simply link your German iTunes account and within moments you will be watching Watchever on your Apple TV. You will have to accept an email request to confirm your new subscription and account to access on other devices, but that is easy enough.

    Remember though, this will only last a month and Watchever is not free. An easy way to continue is to simply top up your German iTunes account with funds, and this can be done with a German iTunes gift card. You will need to use one for the German store, but there are online companies that offer this and will email your iTunes voucher code within minutes. They cost a tad more than the original cards, but you should expect this as they have to make their own markup. Alternatively, if you have a friend in Germany who can purchase an iTunes card for you, then you could ask them to email you the code.

    I personally have tested MiTunes and recommend them as a method of purchasing International iTunes cards.

    Cancelling from Watchever is almost as easy as with Netflix or LoveFilm. Simply stop the automatic renewal and your subscription will end immediately. The almost bit is that unlike Netflix or LoveFilm, where they will let you continue to the end of the paid month, Watchever takes your decision to stop literally, and will put this immediately into effect. Your best bet would be to wait until just before your trial or paid period comes to an end and then cancel.

     

     

  • So, this being a German based service, it’s great for German speakers. But what about customers who don’t know a word of the language, but may be attracted to the service either because they’re an expat living in Germany, or reside elsewhere and love the idea of offline downloads.

    Well, beware. Germans love dubbing. If you have grown up in a country where dubbing films and television shows is less common, the very thought of such artistic vandalism is unthinkable. The good folk of Germany however, have no such qualms.

    They will happily dub everything they can get their hands on. Why, that Amazonian tribesman speaking clearly with a caucasian voice in high German. Kein Problem. This is not an issue in Germany, where nearly everything has been dubbed into the local language, losing forever the original actors dialogue and both the artistic and creative thoughts behind it.

    Thankfully, Watchever is somewhat of a trailblazer in Germany, and bucks the trend by offering the widest range of OV (original version) content in the country. This doesn’t mean every film will offer both German and English soundtracks, but the majority of English language films and TV shows do.

    Most even retain the original English title, extremely handy for searching, let alone browsing, but don’t be surprised if a few films still translate the film titles into German. And just because they do, doesn’t mean the film will only be in German as well, there simply is no pattern to be found here.

    Offline downloads can also be saved in the original English version if this is available, and on some platforms you can even set a default preference as to which version automatically plays upon start.

    But, none of this has any effect on subtitles. Even if a film’s soundtrack is entirely in English, if subtitles crop up (for example a scene where two foreigners are talking to each other) this will always be in German – not something that could be an issue for the odd scene, but it is worth keeping in mind.

    User Interface

    Finally, the language of the UI depends partially on the platform in use. iOS viewers will see English for all the main menus and many popup requests, but film or TV show blurbs will always remain in German along with the nitty-gritty stuff on their website. Other platforms, such as the PS4, smart TVs and their website are 100% with German text.

    So here are a couple of things that may help you on your way.

     

    Cancellation: This is a very important action to know how to do. If you want to cancel your subscription or free trial, log into www.watchever.de and head straight for the Mein Account (my account) button at the top/right of the screen.

    Scroll down until you see the Abonnementdetails (subscription details) and press the Kündigen (Cancel) button and follow the instructions. Remember, Watchever differs a little from most similar style services in that when you cancel, this takes effect immediately! If you have just begun your trial version, or still have three weeks left in your monthly sub, it will not let you continue until the end of the month – once you complete the cancellation process, it really is over – unless you sign up again of course.

     

    Making English the default playback soundtrack: It is possible to set the original language of a film or TV show to be the default language played when content is selected, and if you set this on the website, it will be the global default for many other platforms. log into www.watchever.de and click the Mein Account (my account) button at the top/right of the screen.

    Scroll down until you see Abspielsprache Player (Playback language player) and click it. Then choose Originalversion and click Änderungen speichern (Save changes).

     

     

    Managing Devices: If you find yourself with the Error 1001 message shown below, it simply means you have exceeded Watchever’s maximum number of five devices.

    Error 1001

    This is easy to fix by again logging into www.watchever.de and clicking the Mein Account (my account) button at the top/right of the screen.

    Scroll down until you see Meine Geräte (My devices) and click it. Everything is pretty straight forward from here. Simply click the trashcan under Entfernen (Remove) to remove the devices you don’t wish to use. None of this is permanent, and you can always reinstate the devices by accessing them if you have not exceeded your limit.

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19245″]

  • Watchever may not have the refined magic that makes Netflix so popular, after-all, it lacks somewhat in its user interface, platform support is good, but not great, and video quality outside of the Apple TV was actually quite disappointing.

    But for those living in Germany, beggars can’t really be choosers. The country will no doubt benefit enormously when Netflix finally arrives, but until then, Watchever has a huge benefit over the competition, especially Lovefilm.de when it comes to OV content and the ability to download films and TV shows for offline usage.

    And this is where it could become quite an attractive option outside of Germany. Not even Netflix or the equally impressive Hulu Plus allow their subscribers the opportunity to download content for offline access. Outside of the BBC and 4oD in the UK and Viaplay in Scandinavia, this is one of the rarest, yet most useful of features in the on-demand or catch-up world. A feature so worthwhile, it may not just be expat German speakers around the world that may be tempted to subscribe here.

    So what does Watchever need to do to bring its score up to Netflix levels? Well, for a start, they really need to clean up that user interface. We need to have much more clarity as to what episodes have been watched, and which ones we are still in the middle of. Video quality needs to be 1080p HD across the board, and maybe a little more content as well – what is available is already different enough when compared to many similar services around the world, but if Watchever want to stay ahead of Netflix when it arrives, it should do everything it can to improve what it already has.

    Pros:

    • Good range of content including HBO.
    • Offline Access!
    • Good Platform Support.
    • Most content is available in original language.
    • Good value, although slightly more expensive than Netflix, Hulu Plus or Lovefilm/Amazon Instant.
    • Contract free, you can cancel at any time.

    Cons:

    • For non-German speakers, text is only in German for most platforms.
    • Difficulties in subscribing outside of Germany.
    • Cancellation within the 30 day trail will end the trial immediately.
    • No Profiles.
    • Video quality does not seem up to HD standard.
    • Does not keep visual track of watched episodes.

    Technical Details:

    • Available on PC, Mac, PS3, PS4, Xbox360, Wii, Kindle Fire, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, Apple TV, Android Tablet (OS 3.1 – 4.2), Android smartphone (OS 2.2 – 4.3), on many Samsung Smart TVs, Panasonic Smart TVs, Philips Smart TVs and LG Smart TVs.
    • Max of three titles on three different devices can be watched concurrently.
    • Watchever recommends the date to be set to Central European Time (CET).
    • Subscription based on €8.99 per month with no contract required.
    • 30 day free trial available.

    Log:

    21.02.2014: Review published. Score 6.8 – Offline Downloads & HBO!

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

     

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19245″]

Comments

  1. Prakash

    Wonderful review. Specially considering the non German speaking expats points. Though i have one thing which is still not clear. I do not see the new content or complete series. they seems to have one 1 or 2 seasons of any series as seen from their website. Am i wrong in my assumption ?
    For me its important to watch from season 1. i cannot strt from season 2 or 3.

    • Hi Prakash, that’s a good question. I’ve just taken a look, and it does seem to be a bit mixed. Some series start at the first season such as Breaking Bad (Season’s 1 to 5), Sherlock (Season’s 1 to 2), Person of Interest (Season 1), The Walking Dead (Season’s 1 to 3), Revenge (Season 1), Under The Dome (Season 1) etc. It was quite easy to find series that started with the first season.
      That said, I went looking for series which didn’t as well, and I also found a few. Gossip Girl only has season’s 4 and 5, Fawlty Towers (only Season 2). To be honest though, I found more that began from the first season. Also, I have also seen series on Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Hulu where it didn’t start right from the beginning either.
      Are you after any specific television series in particular Prakash?