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Eye on Demand | November 17, 2017

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CTV Go Review

CTV Go Review

Review Overview

Quality of Video Stream
6
User Interface
5
Content on Offer
6
Device Availability
2.5
Airplay, Chrome and Mobile
3
4.5

Below Average

CTV Go is Canada’s largest English language private television broadcaster’s catch-up service, with high quality streams and a partially free service. So how well does CTV Go compare to other free-to-air catch-up services from around the world?

Despite early battles with Canada’s public broadcaster CBC, CTV, began its operations in 1961 and eventually became one of the largest and highest rated broadcasters in the nation. Oddly enough, the initials CTV doesn’t official mean anything, although the general assumption has always been Canadian Television, which was at least played by CTV during promotions in the late 90’s.

Content on the network is a reasonable mix of local Canadian productions along with American imports. Canadian made shows have included the likes of Due South, Power Play, The Amazing Race Canada, Corner Gas, Instant Star, The Eleventh Hour, and Flashpoint, not to forget the odd movie as well.

Unfortunately, due to Canada’s proximity to its larger and influential southern neighbour, CTV like many other Canadian networks, have adopted the tied-to-cable approach regarding OTA television, in this case with ties to Bell (who own CTV) and Shaw. This means a great deal of content which would traditionally be available to all for free through little more than a bent coat-hanger, now requires an expensive Pay-TV contract to access. This includes both their live streams and many episodes.

 

Quality SDVideo quality would best be described as enhanced SD, with an official variable bitrate offered between 400 and 2048kbps. At full screen, visual artifacts are quite noticeable if you sit close to the monitor, which is unfortunate, since the only large screen CTV Go support are computer monitors where people generally speaking, sit quite close.

And that leads us to platform support. As one of Canada’s pioneering IPTV networks and the first in the country to offer its content online in 2009, one would have thought they would have reached a lot more platforms by now. Sadly not. CTV Go are not supported on any major set-top-box or Smart TVs, with only basic browser and mobile devices available.

 

  • CTV.ca

    CTV’s web portal is a demonstration of clutter if ever there was one. Let’s not mince around with words here, just look at the screen-shots below for yourself or head on to CTV’s website. Not that Canada’s other major network, CBC would offer anything more elegant which could have been used as an incentive.

    With no Watchlist, Episode Management or even a Resume option, CTV really have avoided all the stops here, leaving their viewers with little more than stock-basic video viewer and advertisement portal.

    Finding a show can be done by browsing through Genres, the Shows tab, or directly searching for specific content, but once you find the show you are after, your video list could be flooded with short clips obscuring the more useful episodes.

    Still, at the end of the day, if watching Canadian content on a laptop in full-screen is all you really want to do, then this website will generally speaking achieve it.

    As for video quality, don’t let my tested average of 2010kbps* fool you into thinking this is an above-SD quality stream – it’s not. With significant pixelation and visual artifacts, especially on fast moving sequences, viewers would be hard pressed to attempt enlarging the screen-size above that of a laptop. Stick to the smaller screens, and the videos can look acceptable.

    Platform Pros:

    • Access to popular Canadian content.
    • Live TV (If you have a partnered Pay TV contract)

    Platform Cons:

    • Website somewhat cluttered.
    • No Resume feature.
    • No Cross Platform support.
    • No Episode Management.
    • No Watchlist.
    • No Chromecast support.
    • Requires Pay-TV contract to access free-to-air live streams.
    • Requires Pay-TV contract to access some free-to-air content via catch-up.
    • Poor quality streams despite the high bitrate.

    (Accessing CTV Go Outside of Canada may require a good VPN or Smart DNS service)

    Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”17314″]

  • CTV Go, the mobile arm of CTV’s online delivery service, seems to do things a whole lot better. Whereas CTV’s website looks dated, cluttered and something of an Smithsonian artifact, CTV Go on iOS has a much more up-to-date feel, along with a greatly improved user interface.

    Highlighted shows on the iPad dominate the home-screen, and can be smoothly scrolled horizontally. Just tap a show that you are interested in to take you to whatever playback options there are.

    The only catch here is that the iPad app only works in landscape mode, and the list of available episodes is clipped by an oversized advertisement. This is not so much a problem when using an iPhone, but rather annoying on the iPad.

    Video quality appears significantly better on the iPad when compared to the web browser’s stream, which probably has a lot more to do with the smaller screen than any differences in the tested average bitrate of 2050kbps*. Although at that bitrate, it technically sits somewhere between standard definition and 720p, noticeable pixelation is still slightly present event though at this resolution it shouldn’t be.

    All of this is moot when discussing CTV Go on the much smaller iPhone screen. Due to the screen size here, that same 2050kbps* stream looks stunning. It just goes to show, CTV’s streaming quality seems to be optimized for the smallest screen possible.

    As for AirPlay or Chromecast support? Forget it. CTV Go won’t allow anything outside of mirroring.

    Platform Pros:

    • Improved UI experience.
    • Can access via Wi-Fi or mobile data.
    • Schedule.
    • Video quality is acceptable for the smaller screens.

    Platform Cons:

    • Only horizontal mode on iPad.
    • Advertisements take too much space blocking episode lists on iPad.
    • No true HD streams.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Live streams require cable subscription.
    • No AirPlay.
    • No Chromecast.
    • No Resume.
    • No episode management.
    • No Watchlist.
    • No cross-platform support.

    (Accessing CTV Go Outside of Canada may require a good VPN or Smart DNS service)

    Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”16997″]

  • The following app has been tested on a Samsung Galaxy Tablet S8.4 running KitKat 4.4. Due to the enormous fragmentation of the Android ecosystem, features, availability and UI may vary dramatically between devices.

    CTV Go’s Android app is not terribly distant from the iOS version. Essentially, expect a horizontal based app with the usual programme highlights on the home page – except in CTV’s case, it seems almost everything they offer is highlighted.

    Swiping horizontally scrolls through the available shows, as does tapping the button on the top/right of the screen which brings up a list. Outside of searching, there isn’t a lot else that can be done here. CTV Go on Android provides no form of Episode Management or Watchlists. It keeps no record of what you have seen, what episode you are at, and what stage you left off. It may be prudent to bring along a pencil and paper to keep track of these things, or a separate 3rd party app.

    Still, they at least provide a live television stream… well, as long as you have signed up to a compatible cable provider that is.

    Video quality comes in at a respectable, if slightly fuzzy 2030kbps*. If there were a way to cast this to a Chromecast device, this resolution may not be sufficient for the big screen, but it certainly should suffice for most mobile devices however.

    Let’s be honest here. If the live (locked down) streams were not actually available on this platform, it would be considered a completely bare-boned app. Outside of basic playback, there are no wiz-bang features, bells or whistles to think of.  (That said, there is a Watch History available if you sign in to a compatible cable company, but we couldn’t test this).

    Platform Pros:

    • Improved UI experience (over web).
    • Can access via Wi-Fi or mobile data.
    • Schedule.
    • Video quality is acceptable for the smaller screens.

    Platform Cons:

    • Only horizontal mode on tablet.
    • No true HD streams.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Live streams require cable subscription.
    • No Chromecast.
    • No Resume.
    • No episode management.
    • No Watchlist.
    • No cross-platform support.

    (Accessing CTV Go Outside of Canada may require a good VPN or Smart DNS service)

    Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

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

    [pro_ad_display_adzone id=”16997″]

  • CTV Go offers a spartan and unembellished online streaming service to compliment the television network’s traditional live streams. If all you want to do is grab the occasionally missed show on a computer or mobile device, then for the most part, this service will suffice. Although their web presence seems far too cluttered for our liking, they fare much better with their mobile devices.

    That said, at the end of the day, content is one of the major drawcards, and CTV Go does provide quite a reasonable amount. However, most of it is locked behind a paywall. Now, Eye on-Demand have no issues with paywalls in principle, which is why we love the likes of Netflix, Now TV, Hulu or Amazon Prime. But locking content that is available traditionally for free just feels wrong. CTV Go have a wide range of programming that is otherwise available without any contract, but as soon as they add the “online” title, a 3rd party cable or satellite subscription is required, even if the viewer has no interest in this. Still, if you live in Canada, and have a compatible pay-TV subscription, then CTV Go’s content options increase dramatically.

    However, it can’t go without noticing the incredible lack of features which are generally speaking considered standard these days.

    Episode management is not just a marketing phrase, but a vital key in keeping track of what episodes and shows viewers are watching. Lacking any real form of watchlists, episode tracking, cross-platform support or even resuming an unfinished show is unforgivable in 2015, and these omissions are one reason behind the low score.

    Secondly, the serious lack of platform support is astonishing. CTV Go has possibly the lowest range of supported devices for any major television network’s catch-up service Eye on-Demand has yet reviewed in the world, which is not exactly an accolade to be proud of.

    All of this adds up to an acceptable, if a somewhat basic online service – at least the road can only lead upwards from here.

    Pros:

    • Access to a range of CTV programming.
    • Good video quality.
    • Basic mobile device support.

    Cons:

    • No HD Streams.
    • No offline downloads.
    • Live streams require pay TV contract.
    • Most episodes hidden behind a paywall.
    • No Watchlists.
    • No Resume feature.
    • No true cross-platform support.
    • No Episode Management.
    • Very poor platform support.
    • No closed captioning.
    • No parental controls.
    • No AirPlay support.
    • No Chromecast support.

    Technical Details:

    • Four concurrent streams per account log-in.
    • Programmes available online after 24hours.
    • Variable bitrate between 400 and 2048kbps.

    Catch-up BUTTON SD BUTTON Live TV BUTTON

     

     

     

     

    Log:

    18.12.2014: Review published. Score 4.5 – below average.

     

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