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Eye on Demand | December 16, 2017

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Lifetime Review

Lifetime Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
7
User Interface
5
Content on Offer
6
Device Availability
5.5
Airplay and iOS
6
5.9

Best on iOS

How about an American television channel that focuses its programming on a female audience, in which woman also play a leading role? Lifetime, part of the A&E Networks group, is such a service, and as with A&E’s other channels, they also provide some of the more accessible free catch-up television in America.

Although Lifetime has been around in various guises since the mid 1980’s, it wasn’t until 1992 that it began the clear direction towards female oriented television.

Today, Lifetime now airs original broadcast material, from films and drama to reality television, with popular highlights being Army Wives and Devious Maids, and at least on the airwaves, second-run syndication material such as Frasier, How I Met Your Mother, and Grey’s Anatomy.

Sadly, their catch-up content is only a fraction of what their channel actually airs, but this does include most of their own productions, as well as a fair range of movies. At the time of publication, there were more than 30 films available to watch online for free. Not a lot of catch-up services actually include movies, so this is certainly a bonus.

But, like most American catch-up services, they live under the shadow of big cable. In Lifestyle’s case, television episodes are most affected, with all newer episodes only available if you are also a subscriber to one of the selected giant US cable operators.

Quality ButtonVideo quality varies, depending on platform with anything between enhanced SD to just reaching 720p HD. Although my test results wouldn’t set any records, for the most part video quality was pleasant enough to enjoy on the big screen.

And finally, platform support is above average for a free, American catch-up service. Being part of the A&E Networks group, which is one of the more forward thinking networks in America as far as IPTV is concerned, platforms include a wider range of options than many of the main FTA networks provide.

 

  • www.mylifetime.com

    I’m rarely a big fan of many television network’s websites, mainly because they tend to flood my eyeballs with too much clutter, fill the library with pointless clips and feature television series pages without any full episodes. And Lifestyle’s web portal suffers from all of this.

    Granted, I can ignore the pointless clips, as like many people, I wouldn’t even be able to find the time to click on them, but why have the clips start playing automatically? Seriously, I have faith in humanity that it is collectively intelligent enough to choose when to click play, and not have our auditory and visual sensors needlessly overwhelmed.

    It doesn’t help that the website is a little confusing to navigate as well, with no less than seven different locations to find movies and television episodes. If these were categories or genres, that would be logical, and granted, the separation of television & movies was one of the better moves. But there just seems to be far too many places to look, without any real guidance as to what we actual want – full, playable episodes.

    I found it especially disappointing that locked episodes were not clearly highlighted as they are on other Lifetime platforms, nor the availability of a Watchlist. In fact, try resuming a previously started show and see how difficult this can be without any Previously Watched list, or Resume features.

    Quality SDAt 2130kbps*, video quality sits somewhere between SD and HD, and although not as good as many other catch-up services around the world, the enhanced SD streams are certainly good enough for everyday usage.

    Platform Pros:

    • Good video quality.

    Platform Cons:

    • Cluttered and confusing user interface.
    • Pointless video clips start automatically!
    • No Watchlist.
    • No Resume options.
    • No Previously Watched List.
    • No Episode management.
    • Locked titles not clearly marked.
    • No dedicated Chromecast support.
    • No HD.
    • Not the most sofa friendly environment.
    • No cross-platform support.

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

    Movies BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”19245″]

     

  • Best Choice StampThankfully, the remainder of Lifetime’s platforms reviewed here, score much better than their rather unimpressive web portal.

    A&E Networks update their iOS apps more frequently than almost any other network. Most of the time, they just include the odd bug fix, but even that shows a commitment to bringing an excellent product to their viewers. However, every now and again they also add a fantastic new feature, or improve an existing one, so every time I see the A&E Network apps in the update list, I have to admit I get a little excited.

    Lifetime follows many of the design conventions of A&E’s other apps, which translates to easy navigation and offers many useful features. Unlike the web portal, there is a full Watchlist, including a Previously Watched section highlighting shows you need to finish, coupled with the ability to Resume where you left off.

    Video quality is reasonably good for an iOS app, with an average bitrate tested at 2560kbps*. Whilst not really HD, it is certainly above average SD quality, and good enough to airplay, which it thankfully does do – although the importance is waning since Lifetime now offer a dedicated Apple TV app. On the downside, there is no AirPlay button directly available on the playback window, so you’ll have to access the iPad/iPhone’s global button.

    Platform Pros:

    • Well designed user interface.
    • AirPlay supported. (Mirroring not required)
    • Near HD quality.
    • Watchlist and Resume available.
    • Previously Watched list also available.

    Platform Cons:

    • No true HD.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • No dedicated AirPlay button.
    • AirPlay multitasking not supported.
    • No episode management.
    • No offline downloads.

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

    Movies BUTTON 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=”16997″]

     

  • If I were to just compare Lifestyle’s two STB platforms reviewed here, It would be difficult to decide which I prefer between the Roku Channel or the newer Apple TV app. This may sound a little odd since the Roku Channel looks somewhat dated in comparison, and hasn’t elevated itself above the stock-standard Roku template.

    But the Roku Channel’s biggest asset is functionality. Whilst the Apple TV app looks quite a bit better, it has a few minor omissions which could be enough to let the Roku Channel slip ahead.

    That said, the Roku Channel is still very basic, but it does the job well where it matters most. You can send either specific episodes or an entire series to the Watchlist, as well as Resume a previously started show. But there is no true episode management to speak of, so don’t forget to manually add an unfinished programme to the Watchlist if you want to come back to it.

    Fast forward and rewind were also pretty basic, with no thumbnails to aid as visual references as seen with other services such as Netflix. While it worked ok for the most part, keep in mind we had the analogue equivilent all the way back in the 1980’s on VHS or Betamax. If you have been reading Eye on-Demand reviews for a while, you’ll know how much I dislike modern tech incapable of replicating the basic features of yore.

    Quality ButtonVideo quality was especially impressive for Lifetime, clocking in on our tests around 3060kbps*. This is close enough to 720p HD in our minds to consider it as such, and along with the Apple TV stream, one of the best we have seen for A&E Networks.

    Platform Pros:

    • HD (or near enough) quality streams.
    • Watchlist supported (both single episodes & series)
    • Resume possible.

    Platform Cons:

    • Dated user interface.
    • No Previously Watched list.
    • No cross-platform compatibility.
    • No episode management.
    • No FFW/REW thumbnails.

    (Accessing Lifetime outside of the US via Roku may require a good Smart DNS or VPN service configured in your router)

    Movies BUTTON Catch-up BUTTON Watchlist BUTTON HD BUTTON Resume BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”16997″]

     

  • Recently, A&E Networks blasted the Apple TV platform with three new apps, which believe you me, becomes rather noticeable on the comparative desert island that is the Apple TV app library.

    The Lifestyle inclusion makes good use of all the standard Apple TV conventions, although to be honest, all seem rather out of date compared to what Hulu and Netflix have been recently doing on other platforms.

    Still, everything here works quite well, which is something we usually expect when associated with an Apple related product.

    Along the top of the screen sits the main menu, offering choices between the television shows, movies and a Watchlist. Whilst below that are the various selections to be made. What is more than a little odd however, is that the Watchlist can only be used at an episode level. There is no way to add an entire series onto the Watchlist, which sort of denies any form of true episode management.

    Fast forward and rewind are equally lacking on this platform, with three speed levels, but no thumbnail guide. To be honest, no Apple TV app sports any form of visual cue or reference when scrubbing or moving through a video, so technically the fault here lies with Apple rather than Lifetime.

    Quality ButtonVideo quality, whilst slightly lower in my tests when compared to the Roku streams at 2910kbps*, was still visually about the same. At this speed, it is a tad cheeky to describe this as 720p HD, but since I couldn’t personally tell the difference between this and the Roku effort, I’ll call it that for the record.

    Platform Pros:

    • HD (or near enough) quality streams.
    • Watchlist for single episodes supported.
    • Resume possible.
    • Previous Episode 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)

    Movies BUTTON 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=”16997″]

     

  • Lifestyle’s catch-up services benefit enormously from being part of the A&E Network family, which at least as far as partially-free American catch-up services go, sits somewhere at the front of the US pack.

    There is still a lot of work that needs to be done here, including a complete overhaul of their website, improved Watchlists and episode management, as well as a greater consistency (and cross-compatibility) between platforms.

    But looking at the positive aspects, video quality is very good across the board, and although the service suffers the unpleasant slap-in-the-face by forcing cable subscription for the latest episodes, there is still a wealth of content freely available even if you have to wait a few weeks – not to mention a rotating library of full length films as well.

    Lifestyle is a solid performer on the American market, and from the frequency of their iOS updates, I have no doubt we will constantly see improvements at regular intervals.

    Pros:

    • Good quality video (up to HD depending on platform).
    • Good range of platform support.
    • Content selection is good.
    • Rotating library of full-length movies.
    • AirPlay supported.
    • Watchlist & Resume supported.
    • Some platforms have Recently Watched support.

    Cons:

    • Could be better in episode management.
    • Far too many clips.
    • Many programmes require subscriptions to cable companies.
    • Full cross-platform support required.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • FFW & REW lacking thumbnails.
    • No offline downloads.

    Technical Details:

    • CC supported.
    • Flash 10.2 + is required on computer browsers.

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

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Log:

    30.04.2014: Review published. Score: 5.9 – Best on iOS

     

    * 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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