Videotron’s illico iPad app: Cool, but hardly revolutionary

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Version 2.0 of Videotron’s illico iPad app was finally published on the Apple App Store on Wednesday, almost two weeks after it was announced in a big press conference at Quebecor HQ in which it was described as a revolutionary thing that would change TV forever.

As I explain in stories for The Gazette and, the app doesn’t have any specific features that are particularly revolutionary, but it does bring everything together into one package. Using one interface, people can stream 70 live TV channels (assuming they’re subscribed to them), check out various free video-on-demand titles or watch programs from the Club Illico subscription video service. You don’t have to remember which program is available using which service. Just search for it and the application will find it.

The app includes a bunch of other bells and whistles. You can control your PVR (or multiple PVRs individually) from the app, rewinding, pausing, recording and changing channels. Program landing pages include ratings from IMDB and Cinoche. You can get biographical information about actors from Wikipedia. And you can have multiple profiles on the app so various members of the family have their own favourites and preferences.

After the press conference, I got a chance to play with the app, and get some screenshots of it which are reproduced above. The most impressive thing about it is that it’s fast. Commands to the PVR, which are sent via the Internet instead of locally via wifi, are almost instantaneous. More importantly, streaming video is much more fluid than you’d expect. Skipping ahead or back in a video doesn’t require 10 seconds of buffering or cause everything to freeze outright. The video begins playing from the new time right away. Little things like this make a big difference to the enjoyment of an app.

The application is available for iPads only at the moment. (It’s an automatic upgrade for those with earlier Illico TV iPad apps.) An Android version is expected soon.

In the meantime, expect to hear a lot of this Radio Radio song on TV ads:

Other coverage from Agence QMI, La Presse and Huffington Post Québec.

Platform agnostic

While I think Videotron is exaggerating claiming this is revolutionary, it does hint to a form of revolution I’d like to see in the delivery of content online: standardization.

When you turn on your TV, it functions the same way whether you’re watching CTV, Global, TVA, HBO or Sportsnet. Your cable or satellite provider handles the complex rights negotiations with the content providers, and payment is handled through a simple process with channel packages and a single bill.

But in the online environment, everything is different. You might have an app through your TV provider, or have to download CTV GO to get access to its programs, or Global GO, or some other app for a different type of video. And that’s not even counting Netflix and other over-the-top services that have their own independent systems. Imagine if you could consume all the programs you want through a single application instead of having to download a different one for each network or even each program.

We’re seeing some standardization already. The “GO” apps not only share a name among different content providers, making it easier for consumers to know what they are, but authentication (i.e. proving to the app that you’re subscribed to a particular channel through your cable provider) is becoming easier where the content provider and your TV provider are part of different Canadian media giants. CTV and Shaw recently announced their “GO” apps would be accessible to users of Shaw Cable and Bell TV, respectively. And Bell Media’s new apps for its French-language specialty channels will be available for Videotron subscribers.

The CRTC has had a hands-off approach toward regulating the Internet, and with good reason. Hopefully the industry can work together to make the system easier for us before the government feels obliged to step in.

(And before you blame Canadian regulators or Canadian media companies, this is an issue in the U.S. too)

4 thoughts on “Videotron’s illico iPad app: Cool, but hardly revolutionary

  1. Frank

    While a nice improvement over the sluggish older app a MAJOR drawback is one no longer has the Remote Recording if you have the 1st generation PVRs. You’ll get a “intended for NG PVRs only” and frankly there’s no incentive with this app to do away with my PVRs. App deleted.

      1. Noah Sidel

        The easiest solution is to call Videotron and *politely* demand a next-gen PVR. They will give it to you because they are a service-first company. I temporarily switched to Bell recently and ended up going back because Videotron’s service is exceptional (and Bell’s is, well, a little bit better than Air Canada).

        1. Frank

          Yep they’d do that. In our case however, our TVs are older non-HD CRTs and until the image craps out, we’re pretty happy with them. The NG PVRs downsize the image for non-HD leaving a highly cropped/truncated image thus sticking with 1st gen model.
          Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a butter churner to tend to :)


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