TV Catchup review

TV Catchup is unlike any other online video service out there. It’s not a ‘second chance’ site like BBC iPlayer or 4oD. Nor is it a video-on-demand download service, like the features built into the iTunes Store. And it’s certainly not a streaming service like Joost, full of old TV content and clip-site feeds.

TV Catchup is, basically, Freeview on your computer. It takes the live feeds from around 30 Freeview TV channels and streams them in real time, enabling you to watch TV anywhere you have a Mac (or PC) and an internet connection. You can also pause and rewind live TV as though using a Sky+ or Freeview+ box. It’s free to use, but supported by ads. You won’t really notice these, though, as they’re no more intrusive than the adverts you get on TV anyway.

The Flash-powered streaming system is perfectly adequate for casual TV watching. On a par, we’d say, with BBC iPlayer in ‘normal’ mode. The player can also be launched in full-screen mode and you can toggle the aspect ratio of the picture. It supports mobile devices, including the iPhone, using Java – even over 3G. See iphone.tvcatchup.com on your iPhone. There’s a full TV guide too, so you can see what’s on – or select from a channel list.

So, why’s it called TV Catchup when it’s a live streaming product? An explanation on the website says that the product was launched originally as an online, live TV-recording device. (It was suspended after broadcasters questioned its legality.) In future, the service hopes once again to offer desktop software that will enable users to save programmes as well as watch them. For now, though, live streaming is all you get – and the TV guide is frill-free.

OUR VERDICT

Perfect for laptop travellers or when there’s a viewing schedule clash in the family, TV Catchup is an impressive start-up with tons of potential. Bookmark it.

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