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I lead a fairly busy life as most of us do and I've always been a bit of a telly addict. But, I'm not the kind of person who will drop everything when a TV programme is on, but at the same time I can't miss anything! In the days of the video this got quite messy. I had piles of them stacked up. Recordable DVD was a step in the right direction, none of that rewinding lark. When Sky plus showed up I thought all my Christmas's had come at once, the ideal service for me. The only drawback is the expense and I have been thinking of shopping around for alternatives.
I was watching an episode of Corrie and saw an advert for a programme that followed which looked my kind of thing. Unfortunately as I was a few days behind with my viewing I'd already missed it. I quickly skimmed through the TV guide to see if I could find a repeat but drew a blank. I decided that the only way I was going to be able to watch it would be to view it online.
ITVs website is called ITV.com and they offer a service called ITV Player. This enables you to catch up on TV programmes that you have missed. The website is easy to use and I found the programme that I wanted to view easily using the A-Z guide. There are other options to find the programme you are looking for: Selecting the date, a list of all programmes, the Top Ten and a section with just Soaps. Once I had selected the programme a still frame appeared on the small 'screen' on the website with a 'play' sign on top. I clicked on this to start the programme. As it was a programme that was shown after the watershed originally and which I was watching before 9pm I needed to create a PIN number for future use. The programme then started to play on the small screen. I clicked on a further icon which enlarged the picture to fill the screen. All pretty easy so far, but then the problems started. The screen kept freezing up. The sound was coming through the speakers fine, but it was almost like watching a series of photographs. I decided to stop it to see what I could do to improve the situation. I noticed an option to download a free upgrade service called Silverlight 2. I clicked on all the appropriate links and the service was downloaded in a few minutes. I then started to play my programme again. My initial problems were resolved and it was playing much smoother. So I settled down to watch. All was fine until my screensaver kicked in as I hadn't touched my keys or the mouse for a while. This was easily sorted but I wasn't impressed at having to get out of my chair again so soon!
The next hiccup was when I reached the first ad break. Along the bottom of the screen is a bar showing how far into the programme you are. I decided that if I clicked after the break then it would start again after the ads. This did happen but then the programme seemed to be on a constant catch up. I would get a black screen with a percentage as though it was downloading, the programme would start and then stop again every few seconds and repeat. To resolve this I paused the programme and went to do something else online for a few minuted then came back and played it. This seemed to work until the next ads when I encountered the same problem again. This was an hour long episode and it took me almost 2 hours to watch from start to finish. I found myself quite put off the service by the end of it.
Being a bit on the forgetful side, I found myself forgetting to record the 2nd episode until 20 minutes into it. Reluctantly I turned back to the ITV Player. I had to enter my PIN number again to watch it and it started fine this time. When it got to the first ad break I decided to let it run. It only showed a couple of adverts and then the programme came back on. It did look as though it was catching up again, but after the once it played just fine. My opinion of the service improved greatly.
I have since gone back to the site to have a look at the services on offer. A link that seems particularly useful is the FAQs. This advises what system requirements are needed to use the player, how it works, and troubleshooting. By looking at this I have discovered that the catching up difficulties I encountered is when the system is 'Buffering'. This can vary in length and is determined by the internet connection, spped of broadband, weather etc.
You can also watch the ITV channels as they are being broadcast. ITV1, ITV2, ITV3 and ITV4. In their own words these are running as live as possible. Although the majority of the programmes on offer are from the last 30 days there is also a section entitled TV Classics. This has numerous past ITV shows available to watch. Examples include classic Crossroads, Wrestling and many old series such as Peak Practice, Darling Buds Of May, Soldier Soldier, Metal Mickey to name a few. When you select one of the programme names it gives you a bit of background info plus a list of episodes available. Ideal if you are a bit of a nostalgia fan, but something I haven't really got time for.
My initial experience of the player wasn't impressive. I think a lot of this was down to my inexperience of how it worked. My 2nd viewing was much improved. Im not totally converted at the moment and it will take a lot more to convince me it is better option than Sky Plus. I have also tried the BBC I Player and this seemed very similar although I have not looked at it in any great detail. As technology improves this will no doubt be one of the future ways that TV is viewed but I'm not yet converted. Maybe I'm a bit stuck in my ways, it took me a long time to give up on vinyl and accept that CDs were the future!
I think they must have had complaints and are attempting to improve the service, because I recently took part in a survey where I had to evaluate the performance. Let's hope they get it right. That screensaver thing happens with BBC I-Player too - it's always slap bang in the middle of an interesting bit!
vcarina88x 04.02.2009 04:43
great review, enjoyed reading! VC :) x
plod591 04.02.2009 01:22
Having sky means I just have to be patient and wait for a repeat on one of the other channels. Well reviewed from your own experience. x