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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