It may have taken a while but Sky's internet TV service Neon has finally flickered into life. Originally planned to launch last year, it was held up by system bugs and delayed a couple of times while their IT exterminators sprayed the place.

But in the last month at Neon HQ a number of boots must have been firmly and regularly applied to a number of asses to get this thing up and running before next month's arrival of the American streaming behemoth Netflix.

If they hadn't sorted it all out then they might as well have not bothered and just packed up and gone home.

As it is they've managed to get it all going, squeezing it in just before deadline and rushing to the streaming party late and befuddled like a charmless Hugh Grant.


So, now that it's been "unleashed" what does Neon bring to the party aside from boorish PR declarations that everything is "awesome"?

Firstly, it brings an eye-watering price tag: an outrageous $20 a month which betrays its premium pay TV lineage. This prices it far ahead of its immediate local rivals. Lightbox asks an even $15 while Quickflix is a humble $12.99. We don't yet know how many clams Netflix will charge but the safe money is on it being under $20.

Like other services Neon offers a 30-day free trial. Joining was relatively
straightforward though it did necessitate handing over my credit card deets.

Once you're in, the main home screen itself is nice, with lots of modern fluoros and nice big pictures. It looks flash.

A scene from The Walking Dead.
A scene from The Walking Dead.

What's not so flash is the user functionality. The default TV view lists every single season of every single show in date order, jumbling them all up together instead of having, say, a single tile to take you all available episodes of The Walking Dead.

This means that you have to keep scrolling past shows you've decided not to watch as seasons continue to pop up. This sounds nit-picky but in practice it's incredibly annoying to find yourself scrolling past yet another season of Californication.

Dig through the menus and find the alphabetical view and the problem is mostly solved, though each season of every show continues to have its own tile. My assumption is that this is supposed to give the impression of a bounty of shows but is anyone fooled by this? I doubt it.

Martin Freeman in a scene from Fargo.
Martin Freeman in a scene from Fargo.

But what of the shows? Well, there's some good stuff. Season one of Fargo is there as is the very good Gillian Anderson-starring Brit crime series The Fall. There are three seasons of Game of Thrones, but not season four, and you can rewind back to Girls' season one (but only season one), even though season four currently airs on Sky's subscription channel Soho.


So the content's good, but it's old. And nobody pays a premium for old.

Worse, as Sky don't want to cut their own lunch, Neon's content is going to stay old.

They've confirmed that, for example, the upcoming fifth season of Game of Thrones will not be available until months after its initial screening on Sky's Soho channel.

A scene from Game of Thrones.
A scene from Game of Thrones.

This statement can be applied to any of the other shows you're excited about. In this age of immediacy Neon champions delay and ain't nobody got time for that.

Neon also offers movies and it's much the same story. The homepage makes a big deal of The Dark Knight Rises and Hangover 2 so we're hardly on cinema's cutting edge. But there is a decent amount to peruse and I'm fairly certain that on a lazy Saturday night you'd no doubt find a flick that you missed three years ago to watch.

After streaming a few shows it all worked fine. However, the quality is SD, not HD, and that's not really good enough. It defaults to medium but I ramped it up to high which resulted in a marginal improvement. If your broadband can handle it then HD really should be supported.

All up it's hard to know what to make of Neon. Quickflix is carving a niche by snaffling up local shows and multitudes of movies at an appealing low price. Lightbox doesn't offer films but is showing determined tenacity by fast-tracking high profile, desirable and - most importantly - exclusive television shows that you don't want to miss, like the superb Better Call Saul.

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul on Lightbox.
Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul on Lightbox.

Neon, meanwhile, simply exists, offering old films and old shows at a premium price point. Its potential is undoubtedly hamstrung by the scores of increasingly outdated decoder boxes sitting in living rooms across New Zealand that tick over costly pay-TV subscriptions to its parent company each month.

This self-enforced content delay in both movies and TV is Neon's biggest problem and the most unacceptable. The service may be on demand but they really need to sort this out and get with the programme.

Because until they do, I won't be.

* What do you think of Sky TV's Neon service? Post your comments below.