By Harry McCracken | Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 11:17 am
Got a BlackBerry and feeling a little left out of the excitement this week? Here’s something to cheer you up: a cool service that’s only for BlackBerries right now. BitBop, a TV service that was previously available only as a closed beta, has opened up. And so far it only runs on RIM’s phones: the Bold, the Curve, and the Tour.
Bitbop is from a division of Fox, and it feels a bit like what Hulu (co-owned by Fox) might be like when it lands on smartphones. More than a hundred current shows from a bunch of networks are available–everything from Glee, The Daily Show, and The Office to Cake Boss, Pawn Stars, and National Geo Dogs.
You can watch any show either by streaming it over 3G or Wi-Fi or by downloading it for later offline viewing. In my tests (using a BlackBerry Bold loaned to me by Bitbop) it worked quite well–you can subscribe to your favorite shows or just browse around, and picture quality was surprisingly crisp and fluid. Playback hiccups were rare when I streamed, and nonexistent when I watched a show I’d previously downloaded. (The user interface did feel a tad sluggish from time to time,)
Bitbop is a paid service, unlike Hulu (at least for now). It’s $9.99 a month for all the (ad-free) TV you can watch, with a trial offer that lets you watch three shows for free. Movie rentals with à la carte pricing are in the works. Assuming you like TV and are willing to consider the possibility of paying for it on your phone at all, it seems like a reasonable price.
I’d like to see more news programming and–even more–the old TV shows which Hulu has in vast quantities. I’d also like to see it arrive on a phone I actually own (Fox has has plans to support Android and the iPhone later this year). But in terms of video quality and crowd-pleasing current TV programming, Bitbop is off to a good start.