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When will Catch Up TV be treated equally?

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Gadgets on the go

Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian freelance technology journalist with a passion for gadgets and the "digital lounge room".

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Catch Up TV.

Catch Up TV.

The networks discriminate against us depending on our viewing device.

Australia's online Catch Up TV services are slowly finding mainstream acceptance as they're built into more and more mainstream entertainment devices such as televisions and Blu-ray players. Sony TVs and Blu-ray players will offer access to Ten's Catch Up TV offerings as of June, sitting alongside the SBS, Seven's Plus7 and the ABC's iView. Meanwhile some Samsung and LG gear offers access to iView and Plus7. Samsung is also introducing a Foxtel app, similar to the limited T-Box and Xbox 360 Foxtel services, which will even include some Olympic coverage.

The rise of all these new Catch Up TV options is exciting, until you sit down on the couch to watch them and realise the show you want is missing. Plus7 is perhaps the worst culprit, with the television/Blu-ray service offering far fewer programs than the browser-based service you can watch freely on your computer.

These restrictions are perhaps in part related to rights issues, but it's more likely that the commercial networks are determined to ensure that Catch Up TV poses no real threat to free-to-air -- especially when you're sitting in front of your television. The networks want to offer just enough to be able to claim they're giving the people what they want, without actually giving the people what they want. Then they wonder why people still turn to BitTorrent.

What's most frustrating is the seemingly arbitrary distinction between viewing devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, set-box boxes and televisions. Along with these you've got distinctions regarding how and where we watch content, with major players fighting some new technologies even though they fall within current copyright laws. Of course this has been highlighted by the Optus TVNow case and it's going to be interesting to see how next year's government review of copyright law plays out.

If the networks are giving away Catch Up TV anyway, why make it hard for us to watch it how we want to watch it? In actual fact they're not "giving" it away, because Catch Up TV services often include advertisements. So why not whack in a few ads and make the shows we want to watch available on AV gear as well as browsers? Why not build your audience rather than alienate it?

For years viewers have called on content providers to change their view of the world. To forget about the underlying technology, which is constantly evolving, and focus on what we can watch rather than how we watch it. Hopefully this is the approach that the review of Australian copyright law will take. Yet the major media players have been dragged into the internet age kicking and screaming, and are still caught up in the old world "we talk, you listen" broadcasting mentality.

A few years ago Australia started counting time-shifted content in the ratings results. Perhaps it's time to do the same with Catch Up TV. In some ways the Catch Up audience is more valuable, because viewers can't as easily skip the advertisements as they can when time-shifting on a PVR. Then again the networks do their best to foil our attempts at PVR time-shifting, so they're unlikely to give a stuff about Catch Up TV audiences.

You can't teach old dogs new tricks, but you can cut them out of the picture. How do you deal with broadcasting restrictions?

30 comments so far

  • As usual the content providers are dinasaurs when it comes to these types of tech.

    We've been time-shifting for years after becoming fed up with over-long ad breaks (at high volume), plus the constant inability for channels to run programs on time. There are the usual attempts to screw over PVR users by runnning programs very late, but modern PVR units make changing/extending the time from the electronic program a snap.

    Even when a program is live, I usually let the PVR get ahead by 15 minutes or so (being late from work does the trick), so we can ad-skip while we catch up.

    As for catch-up, the only one I use is the ABC (which is pretty decent).

    They'll learn one day.

    Commenter
    Trogdor
    Date and time
    May 07, 2012, 4:11PM
    • Amen,
      These days there are far too few programs I want to watch and most of these are aired when I am unable to watch them. I am increasingly finding that good online services such as ivew are the only way I watch anything. It is worth pointing out that SMH tv has good shows from time to time but as it is only available on a computer with a browser it often doesn't get a look in simply because the screen I prefer these days is a tablet.

      Commenter
      skyman
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      May 07, 2012, 4:21PM
      • I deal with broadcasting restrictions by not watching any non-Australian content on any Australian TV Station. There are many other ways to watch your shows other than relying on the shoddy scheduling, delayed broadcasts and hopeless Catch-up TV offerings from 7, 9 and 10.

        Showing contempt for your audience when there are better quality, more convienent and speedier alternatives is very self destructive behaviour.

        Commenter
        Justin
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        May 07, 2012, 4:32PM
        • The simple solution is to turn the tv off. Time is too precious to waste on the garbage served to us by the networks.

          Commenter
          Dan
          Date and time
          May 07, 2012, 4:45PM
          • Easy, I just don't watch traditional television at all. I either use proxy services to utilise american services, or purchase DVD/Blu-ray releases from overseas in order to watch it months before we get content in Australia anyway.

            On the off chance some local content is actually worth watching I'm happy to wait for DVD release so I don't have to deal with the networks. If there's no DVD release, well then I'm forced to turn to less legitimate means, but you can't say I didn't try.

            Commenter
            Anthony
            Date and time
            May 07, 2012, 5:33PM
            • I love how you say "forced" like it would literally kill you if you didn't illegally download TV shows.

              I feel sorry for you. I'd hate to think what might happen to you if quality television content ceased to exist one day (for example, by pirates like you killing off the industry).

              Or, who knows; maybe someone like you would actually ENJOY poorly-scripted reality shows on every channel 24/7.

              Commenter
              Tony
              Date and time
              May 08, 2012, 1:21PM
            • I'm sorry, I do my very best to explicitly pay for the content I view. I go out of my way to search for and buy content. When I want to watch a local program I wait for it to complete airing on Free-to-Air and then wait for a DVD/Blu-ray release, if after a reasonable time, there is none forthcoming/no news of a release, then I I see if I can purchase it online. If that doesn't work THEN I turn to piracy.

              I do my very best to give my money to the producers of content, and in the end am forced to pirate VERY little content.

              However, I do not feel the need to pander to network television, I do my very best to exercise my power as a consumer and only purchase/view material in ways I deem reasonable, and not in ways that look to take advantage of me and treat me as an imbecile.

              Commenter
              Anthony
              Date and time
              May 08, 2012, 4:00PM
          • Amen Trogdor. I've tried to explain and interest my friends in the benefits of time shifting/chase play but it seems to be a step too far for most people. How you can sit there and watch endless ads when the trusty Topfield is at hand is beyond me.

            Thankfully, I don't really watch anything on 7/9/10 anymore so skipping ads is less important than it was. I will say that the quality of most catch up services including iView is not what it should be - going fullscreen shows up an often lousy picture.

            Commenter
            Biff
            Location
            Randwick
            Date and time
            May 07, 2012, 5:51PM
            • What is this Catch Up TV of which you speak?

              Commenter
              Dave
              Location
              Planet BT
              Date and time
              May 07, 2012, 6:37PM
              • I haven't watched live TV for years. When the first HDD DVD recorders hit the market I couldn't wait to get one. Been skipping adds ever since.

                A word to those frustrated by the poor commercial catch-up services. Most modern TV sets have a HDMI port - as has your laptop. Link the two and your TV becomes a large computer monitor and will display the superior services offered online.

                Commenter
                Roadrunner
                Location
                Warburton
                Date and time
                May 07, 2012, 9:29PM

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