Fortunately, the next show I try is Blue Bloods, the Tom Selleck Atlantic exclusive. Now this is more like it. Haven't got a clue what's going on as I've never seen it before, but the picture quality is very good on my 32in - certainly at the high end of the standard definition spectrum (think BBC1 SD rather than 5USA). I've seen worse HD picture quality to be truthful. No buffering or blocking whatsoever either. I'm impressed.
It's the same with the Atlantic On Demand content too - a few minutes of Boardwalk Empire (season 4) and Attenborough's Flying Monsters and the PQ holds up extremely well. It's a sharp and well balanced picture for SD, good colour saturation and nicely detailed. I hadn't expected this at all.
Sadly, one of my expectations, limited On Demand shows, proves accurate. There's no opportunity to catch up with the Atlantic headline acts - Games of Thrones and Mad Men are both currently absent - but there are the last month's broadcast episodes of HBO's Boardwalk Empire, Newsroom, Hello Ladies, Veep and a better selection of the UK Atlantic originals Alan Partridge's Mid Morning Matters (6 eps from season 1); The British (7 eps from season 1); 3 episodes of Attenborough's Kingdom of Plants; the Jack Dee panel show Don't Sit in the Front Row; Falcon (4 eps); Fish Town (10 eps); Hunderby (all 8); The Tunnel and something I'd never heard of called This is Jinsy. There are also 13 episodes from season 1 of Rescue Me - I didn't know that was on Atlantic.
There are ad breaks but they don't feature ads - just a short Atlantic promo. Maybe the ads will follow as the service matures?
It's a fair line up, somewhat light on the heavyweight imports and certainly short of the Sky Box Sets they have on the satellite service - for example, The Wire ain't there. With HBO it's catch up only by the look of things. Disappointing compared to Netflix's complete runs of Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Arrested Developments etc. But at £4.99 a month, it's good, and if I had just Freeview, it would be very attractive indeed - Sky 1, Fox, Atlantic, Living, Arts 1, Gold etc. Sky has got a winner here methinks. Clever buggers. But remember though that £4.99 is tagged as only an "introductory" price. There's no word yet what the regular pricing will be.
The box is tiny and discrete, the remote and interface are fairly snappy, and although the EPG is a little bit of a struggle to get the hang of that's probably just down to it being unfamiliar. Did I mention the audio? I only have stereo (which sounds good) but 5.1 is an option too for those better equipped than me (!).
It's good. And for a tenner, a neat box. I had a quick look at the iPlayer and the PQ was fine on HD but very poor on SD. Not as good as VM's on either count.
So they're my first impressions. Neat. And I have Sky Atlantic at long, long last. What's the betting it will be on Virgin Media in the next few weeks now? Ho well, at least I've not signed up to an expensive contract.
BTW, Stephen Merchant's Hello Ladies is pretty darn funny, but the second episode PQ is a little soft to my eyes.
Any questions or things you'd like me to check out on my Now TV box, let me know.