FREE British TV online, Anytime, Anywhere: A Basic Guide to TVCatchup (Beta)

October 20th, 2008 23 Comments By Vince Wong

tvc001to9cr2 FREE British TV online, Anytime, Anywhere: A Basic Guide to TVCatchup (Beta)
Off on holiday and missing a good dose of British Television? Try TVCatchup, a UK based video streaming website relaunched last week after being in hiatus for the past 8 months.

TVCatchup (TVC) allows its registered users to view a selection of UK Freeview channels, for absolutely free.  Channels include  BBC1, ITV, 4, and Five.  It is currently still in beta testing.

Since its relaunch last week, new channels added include FiveUS, ITV2 and BBC3.  TVC’s administrator Daniel announced last Friday: “If you like those channels, you’ll love what is planned. Stay tuned, we’ll use the weekend to recover from a nail biting and sleepless first week, and next week should be interesting.”  Rumour is that new channels along with an unofficial downloadable application is also currently under development.

The questions you most likely have regarding TVC right now probably include: 1.  How’s the quality of the video stream like? 2. Will I get all 15 channels?  3. Is this really legal? 4. If I have a TV license at my residential address, can I use this legally anywhere? 5. Does this work for everyone?

This guide will aim to tackle all these questions.

1. How’s the quality like?

home6371124wb8 FREE British TV online, Anytime, Anywhere: A Basic Guide to TVCatchup (Beta)
Full screen capture screenshot of TVCatchup (photo courtesy of TVCatchup)

The quality on the website is, in one word, excellent.  The interface is simple, usage is intuitive and friendly.  Controls are easy to understand and use.  Videos are of great quality, at 640 pixels wide.

You’ll need a minimum 1 MB broadband connection (8MB is recommended) to view programmes without pausing for buffering.  The videos stream at 640 kbps, so should not be a problem for most people.  Non-updated versions of IE 6 don’t show things properly, and those using Flash 7 are also incompatable with the H.264 codec, so make sure you got the right plugins and updates.

2. Why are only 12 channels available when it said there are 15?

According to TVCatchup’s administator, Daniel, “the service is capable of offering all free-to-air channels currently provided on digital (about 50), however, as the service is in BETA we only have 15 channels setup in the web player, not all of which are accessible to all members…. the remaining channels being enabled over the coming month. We are working with numerous third parties and hope to further offer additional channels other than those on freeview.”  There you go.

In the mean time, entertain yourself by right clicking on the videos to get a full screen view option.  Great for those with their HDTVs hooked up to the laptop.

3. Is this really legal?

The owner of Media Resources Limited, David Taylor, sides with TVC, stating, “I am delighted that after eight months of delays and misunderstandings, the website is finally able to resume operations; providing high quality television on the internet, legally and for free. We further look forward to adding more channels to our existing line-up and the release of a mobile version.”

Mr. Taylor was referring to the initial launch of the website in January this year with 5,000 test users.  According to The Guardian, the site was subsequently suspended without warning in February, after apparently receiving complaints from the BBC,  Channel 4, ITV and Channel Five for its recording functions.  The TVC legal team is however challenging the truth of this publication, as according to TVC head administor Mason, there were misinformed quotes in the article by people not even employed by the company, and that the site was only taken down for maintenence purposes.

Adam Smith, the founder of TVCatchup, had also previously argued that the site is legal because it is covered by time-shifting exemptions in copyright law. But John Enser, media partner at legal firm Olswang, questioned whether the 1988 exemption covered TVCatchup’s service.

“The time-shifting exception only applies to a recording made in domestic premises,” he said. “TVCatchup allows recordings to be made wherever their servers are, which is unlikely to be in a private house. It is difficult to see how they can claim the service is legal.”

These functions, however, have since been disabled, and as the website currently only offers live streaming,  TVC also states on their website that as it does not use illegal P2P technology, everything is absolutely legal. “All services provided by this website have been scrutinised by some of the foremost copyright experts in the country, and have been unequivocally endorsed as being completely legal.”

From a viewer’s perspective, it is most likely that TVC is correct in this case.  Why not check out the site and try it for yourself?  But first, make sure you do have a TV license…

4. If you have a TV license, can you legally view TVCatchup from any location?

According to Daniel, you must own a UK Television License in order to use the site.  Beyond that, Daniel also kindly answers the aspect of viewing TVCatchup from various locations:

“Going just from distant memory, your domestic TV licence covers you if you are temporarily away from your home address (maximum of 28 days, but worth checking) or if you use a receiving apparatus which runs from it’s own internal batteries (such as a laptop or mobile) to view any broadcast as it is being transmitted (as on this site). Whilst the TV licensing authority (who act on behalf of the BBC) claim to have the right to know immediately you move address, we understand that they cannot enforce this if the change of address is temporary (e.g. less than 28 days). Generally speaking I would think you would be covered under this provision, if only as a defence.”

Further information can be found on the TV Licensing website here.

5. Does this work for everyone?

TVCatchup seems to still be limited to certain ISPs only right now.  Surfers on Virgin Media, Plusnet, and O2 have found it to work in general. It does not seem to currently support Tiscali, Sky, Orange, due to free peering connection problems with them.  TVCatchup suggest you to contact your ISP and provide them full details of the steps they need to perform, which will allow you to watch the full selection of television channels online.  It however apparently works in certain countries abroad, like the USA, where free peering connections are the norm.

For those that still can’t access TVCatchup, there are alternatives.  Consider UK View, or downloadable program Zattoo, which unfortunately suffers from a lower quality of video streams.  For those that can’t do without some good ole’ American TV and the latest episode of Heroes, download Hot Spot Shield to catch up via Hulu.  I, however, am off to watch Neighbours in full screen glory.

[TVCatchup Beta]

Comments (23) Jump to most recent comment
  1. Posted by Simon October 20, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    Great article, TVC is a real find. Miles better than Zattoo or other pirate sites, and even the BBC iPlayer.

    If someone makes an application to record from this, then it’s going to become seriously popular. These guys are geniuses.

  2. Posted by D October 20, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Has anyone heard of Blinx? If you use Blinx remote it searches all the catch up tv stuff.

    Here you go:

    http://tv.blinkx.com/

    and also look for blinx remote. Shows you clips then takes you to the site showing them if you want to go there.

  3. Posted by Simon October 21, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Nah, Blinx is just an indexing site, no video, no output, nothing special, just redirects you to someone else’s host site. About as technologically advanced as rubbing two sticks together to start a fire

  4. Posted by colin October 21, 2008 at 6:48 am

    Agreed about blinx as it is one of many and not a very good one at that. TVCatchup is a whole different concept from indexing sites, as it is live UK TV, which is similar to Zattoo but far better in quality.

  5. Posted by jen October 31, 2008 at 9:44 pm

    Just got a chance to try it out, finally-the quality is amazing!

  6. I know. Pretty awesome eh ? :) Desktop app may be coming soon too.

  7. Posted by patrick September 28, 2009 at 11:54 am

    So, I’m still a little confused. I am moving from the UK to Germany and want to use TVCatchup there. Is It possible to do so via my laptop? Free?

  8. Posted by JustExtreme November 9, 2009 at 12:52 am

    No patrick, you will not be able to use TVCatchup in Germany unless you do so via a proxy server in the UK however this would be unrealistic and slow so no, there isn’t much point in even trying that. Unless of course, you are able to set up your own proxy server at a relatives house and leave it in the country…

  9. I’m looking to train as a tv repairer, I wondered if you know of any course in the Manchester area. Nice blog by the way I will have a good look around!

  10. Posted by Disgusted Member February 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I find that they (those who run the site) are just a bunch of power hungry arrogant bastards, who think they know everything, and if you dont like agree, or question something you are told to “deal with it”. Take time to listen to your peers dont dismiss them because you “run the show” Thet state you need a tv license to watch in the uk, but dont abide by the rules of having such license and when you pull them on it, they get pissy, nasty and even ban users. Theyre a bunch of Jerks, i cant wait for zattoo to get more channels, as of now ill just jump from website to website, if i have to.. TVCATCHUP is a grt site unfortunately ran by a gaggle of arseholes.

  11. Posted by rob March 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    i totaly agree this company is a bag of shite. The service they give is crap and all they care about is money and fuck the customer.

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  14. belaid

  15. I have always gone and used http://www.blinkbox.com for movies they have tons of free movies which are preaty good.
    And its all legal

  16. Posted by danhattan89 January 27, 2011 at 1:51 am

    does any one know of a a service available in the U.S.to watch British t.v. series old and current.
    BBS America has some but they are always behind a couple of years.
    thanks
    daniel

  17. I believe that is among the most vital info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But want to commentary on some common issues, The web site style is wonderful, the articles is in reality excellent : D. Good process, cheers

  18. Posted by ray symons November 27, 2011 at 9:25 pm

    nice one

  19. Thank you for every other informative web site. Where else may I get that type of information written in such a perfect method? I’ve a undertaking that I’m just now operating on, and I have been at the glance out for such information.

  20. no comment thank you

  21. i need to know the terms and the conditnon of the contract for tvcatchup
    thank you

  22. There are specialist websites that offer TV catch up services via a VPN if one needs to watch British TV abroad.

  23. Posted by henry suarez July 18, 2012 at 2:20 am

    i want to see free tv uk

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