At some point, telly got complicated.
Not in the sense of how to use one, of course - prodding an ON switch is pretty simple even at the worst of times. What got complicated is figuring out where to watch something, rather than merely what to watch.
It wasn’t always like this. In the distant past, you just watched whatever was being boadcast at that specific time on the only channel available. Eventually, there were more channels, and later came along recorded video tapes and shiny discs, complicating matters a bit.
But now everything’s gone mad: iTunes! Netflix! iPlayer! Amazon! Google! It’s a wonder we don’t all lose it, unplug our tellies and plant them in the ground as giant monoliths, in the hope of sparking some kind of shift in evolution that enables us to keep track of all our favourite shows.
Fortunately, JustWatch means you can put the shovel down and break out the popcorn, because it helpfully informs you about what’s on where.
The app’s set-up is blissfully simple: choose a country and then select your favoured providers. In the UK, this includes major players in streaming, stores that rent and sell you downloads, BBC iPlayer, and ITV Player. You can then search for something specific or flick between tabs for new and popular movies and series, or rummage about a ‘price drops’ section.
For people wedded solely to Netflix, ‘new’ might be a bit depressing (Oh, look — yet more films you’d be hard-pressed to buy on DVD for a penny!), but you can handily filter everything by year, genre, quality (as in SD/HD, not whether things are any good) and price. The ‘price drops’ section is useful for grabbing bargains, not least when the likes of iTunes knocks down a rental of something decent to 99p.
Bugs in the system
Elsewhere, there’s a search and a watch list, although the latter currently seems stubbornly resistant to keeping choices intact between app restarts.
And there are other shortcomings, too: the app could do a better job at omitting services you aren’t interested in from results; a few services and networks are notable by their absence; and there are inaccuracies peppered about.
For example, we were quite surprised to find that the app reckons you can't buy Doctor Who on Amazon or iTunes (when you in fact can), and yet apparently the new series (which hasn't even been broadcast on the BBC yet) is supposedly already available to buy on PlayStation. Unless Sony has a TARDIS stashed away somewhere, JustWatch has got some creases to iron out.
None of this really matters, though, because JustWatch does enough to justify its existence.
If you fancy watching a film, it’ll mostly accurately say where you can do so, and how much it’ll cost. Should you want to check out a TV series, you’ll mostly be able to see where to stream or buy. The odd slip-up doesn’t negate the time the app saves you, and if you keep an eye on the price drops section, it could even save you a few quid too.