I’ve been trying to write this post for a while now – but I’ve been too busy to get round to it. A lot of 2008 predictions said that this year would be the year of TV on your computer. So I thought I would list and review some of the options available at the moment to see how it’s going. The list isn’t exhaustive, it’s in no particular order and it’s heavily biased for the UK. Most of the options work on both PCs and Macs – and some of them on other devices too. So let’s get started.
Yeah, I’m sure we all know about this one. It’s been (over)hyped as the TV killer. It’s pretty good – but doesn’t quite have enough interesting channels on it yet – unless you’re into World’s Strongest Man competitions, Guinness Book of Records curiosities and old editions of Jongleurs comedy gigs. One of the interesting things for advertisers, though, is its incredible range of options for advertising on the channels and hitting very specific demographics. I used to think Joost was the way most people would get into IPTV but with more options available that play directly from your browser, the fact that it’s a separate application may work against it.
I like Zattoo. It streams broadcast channels directly to your computer. I didn’t have any digital telly in my house for a while and this gave me access to live BBC digital channels. They’ve recently also added ITV, Channel 4 and Five – along with news channels in German, French, Polish (I think) and Arabic. They’re in their Beta stage at the moment but it’s definitely worth downloading.
If you want to react against the plethora of advert-free content, you can always go for content-free adverts on Firebrand. This channel-in-a-webpage has presenters showing you the best new ads from around the world. It’s temporarily down just now – but if you’re into your TV ads, bookmark it and check back.
If you’re looking for a variety of familiar content, sites that link to content rather than host it are another option. The original tv-links site was shut down last year and the guy behind it was arrested. But the internet is always good at finding a way around a problem – and the site seems to have been replicated outside the jurisdiction of British courts. So if you want access to your favourite tv programmes, and aren’t that bothered about HD quality, this is a good resource. Another option that is slightly better designed but does the same thing is TVokay – so if the quality’s not good enough on one site, try the other.
VBS is a web tv channel from the guys behind Vice. Because of that, it’s a bit blokey and hip. But they are trying to compliment their knucklehead testosterone content with some more serious stuff from around the world. I think you still need to be skating and listening to over-produced rock music to really be taken by it though. It’s ok in small doses for the rest of us.
Real Super Pass
Real Networks are offering ‘TV quality broadcasts 24 hours a day’ from the likes of Al Jazeera, CNN and the BBC. I’ve looked at the demo and it seems to be alright. But not exactly TV quality. Unless you’ve got a really shit, low resolution TV that occasionally breaks up in a horrible digital way. And in competition with all these other free options, they‘ve decided to charge the horrendous sum of £11.99 a month. And they helpfully point out ‘That’s less than £3 per week!’ If you’re the kind of dumb ass who thinks AOL is a great way to access the internet, this is the choice for you.
The BBC have done an amazing job with their iPlayer. It is convincing the masses that online TV is quite normal. With just about the entire BBC schedule on there, it’s got great programmes for everyone. And they’re continuing to make sure it’s as easy to watch for as many people as possible by developing it for the iPhone and the Nintendo Wii.
It’s quite similar to the iPlayer but it runs on Silverlight instead of flash. Silverlight is supposed to offer better video quality but I don’t notice any improvement. It has quite a lot of the ITV programming schedule on it – which just isn’t as good or broad as the BBC. And, of course, the programmes are still riddled with adverts. But I suppose it’s OK if you just can’t do without those trashy talent shows or Coronation Street.
This is just to show that I’m being fair. I’ve listed the other main UK channels and C4 have only just launched their player. The problem for me, though, is that it only works on a PC. Hopefully they’ll sort that out soon. Or even better the much anticipated ‘Kangaroo’ player that will include all the terrestrial channels in one player. C’mon Channel 4 – sort it out, will you?
This just has movies on it. But the good thing about it is that it gives you a number of links to each movie and users rate them for their quality. Most of the stuff is still pretty ropey though.
If you’ve got any other options, let me know and I’ll add them to the post. Happy viewing!
For those in the US, there’s also the wonderful Hulu with loads of TV programmes on demand. Including some good ol’ vintage TV series. Unfortunately, it’s not available outside the States, Bugger!
Sports-loving PC owners may also be interested in MyP2P where you can view live sports events and other stuff. However, as a sport-hating Mac user there’s no reason for me to ever go there!