Today (6 June) Virgin Trains have launched their new video on demand service called Beam. It is currently available on all the Virgin Trains West Coast Pendolino fleet, on the East Coast it's currently only available on one train and the rest will be rolled out in due course. The idea is to have the East Coast fleet complete by the summer and the remaining West Coast trains (Voyagers) complete by September. The vast majority of West Coast trains are Pendolinos so the majority of their fleet are already covered.
The app is free to use and available for iOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android phones and tablets. You need to be on a train where the service has rolled out so on the East Coast initially your options will be limited but the rollout will be quite quick. Due to restrictions with the on-board WiFi you will need to install the app before boarding or use your mobile data to install the app. The app uses the on-board WiFi and is free to use regardless of class of travel, you do not need to pay for WiFi to use this. All the content is stored on a server on a train, this means it does not have to connect externally and therefore doesn't suffer from low signal areas it also could potentially mean a better internet connection for everyone else as those watching this system will not be using any of the external bandwidth.
Due to bandwidth limitations streaming sites such as Netflix are currently blocked. There are ways around this but doing so affects the quality of the WiFi for everyone else trying to access the internet. Having the content locally should enable them to provide a quality service and provide another way to make rail travel more enjoyable.
Currently this system is dependent on an app meaning you can only access it using approved devices, it has been mentioned that browser support is coming in the future which will allow viewing on laptops and also potentially devices that are not supported currently such as Windows Phone.
We had intended to give the system a run through but unfortunately due to only one train being in service so far and some disruption on the route meaning sets were swapped around this did not happen. One issue I noticed in the instructions in mentions that there's limits to the number of people who can connect on busy trains. At the moment I'm not sure if this limit is set high enough to not cause problems and whether this limit is a technical issue or whether it's a licensing issue.
To be prepared, download the app now. Search 'Beam' on the Apple App Store or Google Play or follow the links here. The app is the same for both East and West Coast.
The content is different on East Coast and West Coast but was we've not had a chance to try it yet we can't provide a list.