PrimeTime2Go Shows Plenty of Promise


primetime2go_seriesPrimeTime2Go isn’t like most other mobile video services I’ve tried — and that’s a good thing. Instead of streaming clips to your cell phone, PrimeTime2Go lets you download shows to your handheld, so you can watch them at your leisure. Right now, the service is hampered by a few limitations, but it shows plenty of promise.

PrimeTime2Go works on a few of Research In Motion’s (s rimm) newer BlackBerry handsets: the Bold and the Curve 8900. (Sorry, Storm users, you’re out of luck, as PrimeTime2Go requires a Wi-Fi connection, something the Storm doesn’t support.) It’s available for download from BlackBerry App World, and costs $7.99 per month.

The service is designed to be more of a mobile DVR than a mobile streaming video service, says Mark Hyland, VP of marketing for QuickPlay, the company behind PrimeTime2Go. And he’s right — to an extent.

It lets you browse through its collection of about 50 or so shows, and then download the episodes you’d like to watch. You can download individual episodes, or arrange to download all episodes of a series as they’re available. Shows are downloaded over Wi-Fi, and then stored on your BlackBerry’s SD card. That means you can watch them without an active data connection (such as when you’re on a plane) and without any buffering, which means no sitting around and waiting for content to load.

P2G-networksAnd the content does load quickly and looks good; PrimeTime2Go delivered the best video quality I’ve seen on a cell phone. The resolution is determined by the phone’s capabilities; I tested PrimeTime2Go on a BlackBerry Curve 8900, and was impressed with the sharpness of the picture. Video never looked pixilated or blocky, and the audio was always in sync with the video.

PrimeTime2Go is nicely laid out, too. You can browse through shows, which are neatly organized by network. But when you click on a network, you see that only a few of its shows are available. The limited selection of shows is the service’s biggest flaw right now, albeit one that it can correct over time. Browse to NBC, for example, and you can choose among 30 Rock, The Office and Heroes, and that’s it. If you’re looking for a show from ABC, you’ll find Lost, Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy, but nothing else. You’ll find shows from other networks, too, including ESPN, the CW, Disney Channel, Bravo, and more.

The decision on what shows and episodes to offer is made by the networks, QuickPlay’s Hyland says. The networks also control when the shows are available (typically shortly after they’ve been broadcast) and for how long. Hyland says that PrimeTime2Go usually will offer a few of the most recent episodes of a show — meaning you can’t go back and watch an entire season of Lost on your phone. Shows are usually available for a couple of weeks after they’re broadcast, though in the summer, when fewer shows are aired, you may see end-of-the season episodes stick around for a bit longer than usual. (You also may see older episodes reappear; as networks air reruns, they may show up in PrimeTime2Go.)

Once you download a show, you have an allotted period in which to watch it; all shows are protected by DRM, and expire after a certain period (anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks or more) determined by the network. You can watch the show as many times as you’d like before it expires.

I think PrimeTime2Go is on the right track: Allowing you to download shows to your phone gives you much more freedom with how (and where) you watch them. And it drastically improves the quality. If the company can overcome some of its limitations, by making it work on more devices (which it says it’s working on) and offering more shows, PrimeTime2Go will be must-see mobile TV.


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