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I sometimes write nonsense about things to try and sound clever

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ihavea Player

Following the rampant success of the BBC iPlayerITV has done what it does best, and nicked it. Ok, so the implementation is different, as are the system requirements, oh, and the reach, ah, and the general niceness of it, but it’s is pretty much the same thingy that allows you to catch up (their call to action) on the fabulous ITV franchise programmes you may have inadvertently decided you didn’t want to watch in the first place.

What I like most of all about this little gem of interactivity, however, is the name. Inoffensive, to the point, and generally following the trend of at least 3 years ago to start everything with an ‘i’. Except this little ‘i’ isn’t the mactard freeform freeload bangwagonesque all-seeing ‘i’, it’s the BBCi. The BBCi brand, label, bucket, whatever, was around for many years as a catch-all bitriquadquin-media expression of anything vaguely digital. Stands to reason that when they finally delivered their TV-ondemandonlineovertheweb player that it would fall under that broad BBCi category of products, even though they don’t really call it that anymore. So, why not just stick the ‘i’ at the front? Viola!. iPlayer. Nothing to do with fruit. So when ITV finally scraped enough funds together to bake a TV-ondemand cake, it’s no wonder they want to leverage a bit of the success that the BBC iPlayer enjoys. So let’s maybe start it with an ‘i’. But wait. We’re ITV. We start with an ‘i’ anyway. Hang on, itvPlayer! Bingo!

Not to suggest that it’s a little like cybersquatting a domain typo, but the similarities are striking. Take a little look at the branding around ITV Player and the BBC iPlayer and you get the picture. Even down to the little pointy triangle video play device in the logo. ‘But everybody uses that’. Oh, ok. Of course, the presentation and user experience for each product are the usual worlds apart, but when it comes down to it, the products are pretty much the same online. What used to be the crucial advantage of what used to be called not the itvPlayer but something else entirely was that you could watch ITV programmes near-live, which I spouted some eulogy about a while back. That was clearly a huge competitive edge, like a virtual sabatier to the heart of copyrighted 7-day backlog of the BBC. Not any more though. I mean, you can’t just watch anything live. And they make you work hard to find it. In fact, all I can watch right now is a live repeat of the UK pre-buget report statement on BBC parliament, but, they do now do live TV online. You still need to pony up for your TV license to actually legally watch it, but I tell you, to get the Scottish Parliament from the 26 November on a programme originally broadcast on 21st December live on my desktop via a repeat on the BBC Parliament channel on 31st December is some thrill indeed. Better than fireworks.

Happy new year.

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itv.com

Watching TV on a computer is a bit like playing World of Warcraft on a phone – you probably can, but it’s a bit rubbish. There are some rather nice players out there right now, like the BBC iPlayer, but the main reservation I have is that I’m as likely to watch programmes, that have already been aired, via my computer in my office as I am to watch them via my hard disk recorder in the living room. Which is not very likely. Once a programme has gone, it’s pretty much gone, and I never seem to to find the time to go back and ‘watch again’. Unless it’s a Robyn Hitchcock documentary on BBC 4. I can always find time for one of those.

I’ve often listened to my friend John Murray commentating on a mid-week champions league match on Radio 5 via Real Player from the BBC site, as I’m supposed to be on a conference call about widgets or something, and that works pretty well. They sometimes even sync up graphic scoreboards to give you something to look at while you’re listening, but really, its still not like watching football on TV. I could probably find last Saturday’s Match of the Day and watch it again on Wednesday, but it’s not like watching it at the time and it’s not live football anyway.

So all hail ITV. Even though they have a reasonable offering in the way of recently aired items to pick and choose from and watch again, what really makes itv.com worth going to is the fact that I can watch ITV channels there. Live. Well, a few seconds delay, but it’s a live stream of the 4 ITV channels, not a stored, cut, archived and expired (usually) version of the ITV output. This is hugely significant, as it means that should, for instance, a UEFA Cup final happen to clash with a conference call about prototypes, then I am now able to have the full moving pictures of the game, as it happens, next to an InDesign document of web design components, while pretending to know what I’m talking about on the phone. I wouldn’t actually do that, of course, I’d be 100% committed to the conference call, but let’s just say that’s a plausible scenario. I did try an experiment with the itv.com pictures streaming and John commentating via bbc.co.uk, to see how they might sync up. It took a few minutes to work out who was lagging, and to my surprise, the Radio 5 audio stream is about 2 and a half minutes behind the ITV1 video stream, but even that was better than listening to Clive Tyldesley (that doesn’t translate well, but I expect Dave will understand).

Of course, the whole thing is pretty much ‘undefined’ as an experience if you’re using Firefox, as the player requires Silverlight, but frankly, there are times when I’ll just use Internet Explorer and be done with it.

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