In the UK, we have a TV streaming service called TVCatchup. Despite the name, it is not a catch up service, but instead allows the streaming of live broadcasts of free-to-air (known here as Freeview) channels. This means it’s possible to watch live UK television on your iPad or iPhone. Here’s our review of the iOS app for TVCatchup.
The TVCatchup app is incredibly simple to use. There’s no sign up required. When the app is first run, it does a quick check to see if your Internet Service Provider is compatible with TVCatchup. Before we go any further, there are two requirements for using TVCatchup. First you must have a UK TV Licence; secondly, you must be in the United Kingdom. There are VPN services out there who will allow secure tunnels into the UK, but this breaches TVCatchup’s terms of service.
Once the ISP check has been completed you’ll be presented with the electronic programme guide (EPG). This isn’t so advanced as to give you a time chart of all channels several hours into the future it just shows you what is on now, and next for each channel. You can rearrange the channels by long-pressing anywhere in the list, and you’ll see every channel turn green and drag-points appear. It was not obvious that you could do this, and the only hint I found was a “Reset Channels” option on the Settings screen.
The EPG has no ‘clever’ UI surprises, just scroll up and down, and tap on the channel you wish to watch. The video player is just as simple you cannot switch between channels – you have to tap the “Done” button to exit back out into the EPG. The video player has controls for play and pause, plus a control that suggests you can replay the last 30 seconds. In my testing, though, that control had little effect. There’s also an EPG bar showing you which channel you’re on with when and what the next programme will be.
In addition to controlling the app, there is a share button so you can send to Twitter, Facebook or SMS what you’re watching with a link to download the app.
The app is free but is supported by pre-roll advertisements. Fortunately, TVCatchup supply controls that let you skip the adverts so that they don’t become too annoying. Bear in mind that these adverts are in addition to those from the commercial TV stations you may be watching too. The adverts are the only objectionable part of the experience, but in reality it’s the only way the company can maintain its business model.
TVCatchup is a great way to watch live television while you’re on the move if you’re in the UK. I recently also discovered that it can be useful when you move into a new apartment that doesn’t have sufficient (or any) TV reception, and so being able to catch live TV (e.g. The news) through an Internet stream can be a welcome work around.
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