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June 2011 Catchup TV. While you can view old programs on Virgin and Sky services you can also 'Catchup' on your computer. Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/, www.itv.com/itvplayer, Channel four on www.4od.com, Channel 5 on www.channel5.com Even non Sky subscribers can pay for Sky from £15 a month for certain channels. It is free for Sky subscribers.
Radio too ! http://www.radioplayer.co.uk/
October 2010 Despite opposition from Sky and Virgin, Project Canvas is to be launched next year with the new name YOUVIEW. There will be a choice of subscription free channels, with catch-up TV through BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 as well as paid for content. Companies developing set top boxes include Humax and Sagem. They will cost around £200 but still need a broadband connection. Some broadband providers may offer the boxes as part of their deal.
January 2010 The BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, has given the provisional go-ahead for the BBC to participate in Project Canvas - an attempt to develop a standard for internet-television services in the UK. Project Canvas is a partnership between the BBC, ITV, BT, Five, Channel 4 and Talk Talk to develop a common interface for Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) in the UK. It aims to set a common standard for internet TV IPTV allows you to access programmes via the net rather than through the air. Canvas is an attempt to replicate the success of Freeview for internet. It is currently testing a service called SeSaw, which will begin in March 2010.
These days one can view dozens of live or repeat TV programs with a basic PC, providing your have at least 2Mb broadband and have a modern browser such as Internet Explorer (7 or 8) or Firefox. Other browsers such as Chrome, Opera and Safari will probably work, too. You may also need Adobe Flash Player. Bear in mind that streaming TV may transfer as much as 2Gb of information and hour. Check whether your ISP puts a monthly limit on your usage - or you may find that you are paying more. In the strange world of copyright one should be aware of the rules. Firstly you don't need a TV license for BBC programs that are not being broadcast live. Most programs are only made available for a limited time. You may be able to download them for viewing later (if you have a very large hard disk) but DRM (Digital Rights Management) technology is often used to make sure a film is only viewed a limited number of times or for a set time period. And on-demand catalogues do not usually include movies. These normally cost money and, if so, are likely to have DRM to limit them to one PC or a limited number of devices
A new site has started (Feb 2010) at www.seesaw.com. A wide variety of films. Free but you have to put up with a couple of adverts.
Another place with around 40 channels is www.tvcatchup.com. This is free. All you have to put up with is an initial advertisement.
I had a good look round Tvcatchup. You have to sign then, to get to actual programs, click on Channels, rather than TV Guide. If you go that way and click on the Green channels you don't get anywhere. The adverts I saw were for O2 Priority football tickets and Fisherman's friend. The pictures were not full size on screen but were clear and the sound was OK. After the advert there is a period of 'buffering' (downloading) before the picture comes alive. I looked at Sky3, Five USA and Virgin 1. My broadband is currently running at 10Meg but there was still a delay. Not worth trying this with dialup. Want to check your broadband speed? Try http://www.broadbandspeedchecker.co.uk/ I could have downloaded some of the programs (using RealPlayer) but others blocked this facility.
If you are a football (or other sports) fan then you are also in luck. Free football channels can be found at http://www.footballstreaming.info/, and http://www.free-football.tv/
For a fee you can join http://watchlivefootball.tv/
There are also some free TV programs on www.blinkbox.com, www.lovefilm.com but some are charged. For Sky subscribers there is free access to their list.
Many videos can be downloaded to your PC using the latest Real PlayerSP. Real Player also has a facility to convert such videos to various other formats.
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