ITV Player online streaming review

So far Macworld has looked at live streaming from the BBC via iPlayer, Channel 4 - 4oD Catch-Up and Demand Five. Now it's the turn of ITV Player, the online catch-up TV service from ITV. The commercial broadcaster rebranded its online catch-up TV service last December, 18 months after the service was first launched, no doubt inspired by the runaway success of the BBC iPlayer.

ITV Player offers a mix of popular shows, the top three shows of 2008 being Coronation Street, The X Factor and Emmerdale, together with content from ITV1, 2, 3 and 4 including sport, comedy and cult classics. From the ITC archives comes The Prisoner, The Saint, The Champions, Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased), Space 1999 and UFO, while vintage comedy is represented by Carry On Laughing, Rising Damp and On The Buses among others.

Unlike similar services from the BBC, C4 and Five, ITV rely on Microsoft's Silverlight rather than Adobe's Flash to stream the ITV Player. That's a non-starter for anyone still using an older PowerPC based Mac. In an online FAQ, ITV states: "Mac PowerPCs are currently not supported by Silverlight 2 and therefore cannot access video content on itv.com."

Despite being touted as the next big thing, a cross-browser, cross-platform and cross-device plug-in for delivering rich interactive content online, Major League Baseball's MLB.com dumped Silverlight earlier this year, after just 12 months, in favour of Flash, baseball bosses considering Silverlight Silverlight too unstable for a profitable subscription service.

Powered by Silverlight, ITV Player certainly looks the least attractive of the online TV services offered by the four main broadcasters. Picture quality is closer to YouTube fuzziness than the quality of say, the BBC's iPlayer. The browser window for viewing is also on the small size and the full screen option is a non-starter due to a blocky pixelated screen.

Tested in Mac OS X 10.5.7, using the latest versions of Safari and Firefox, ITV Player, did at least, perform fairly well. A few dropped frames didn't stop our viewing enjoyment. We also liked a clean interface with a simple A-Z drop down guide to what's available to view along with 'Most Viewed' and 'Today's Choice' offering quick access to those who love a diet of soaps, reality shows and drama. A lengthy catch-up period also means some shows have a dozen or more available episodes to watch, ideal if you live a busy life.

OUR VERDICT

ITV Player, while relatively stable on an Intel based Mac, still feels very much like a work in progress. A reliance on Microsoft's Silverlight sets the service back several years when Mac compatibility, or lack of it, was still a cause of concern amongst Apple Mac based users.

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