Home automators love personal video recorders. A lot of us employ several of them around the home and use IP to stream recordings for different users to different rooms.
Each user is currently given 10Gb of storage. Of course there’s no reason why you couldn’t have multiple accounts, in fact setting up an account per family member seems like a great way to let everyone manage their own recordings, with their own space.
As you’d expect in this complicated world of regions and rights, you need a UK IP address to setup an account on TVCatchup. However we have heard about a little experiment where an account was setup here in the UK, then the details were passed on to a user in the USA who was then able to login and use the service!
The TV schedule can be viewed in the usual EPG format. Mouse over gives program details and you can setup a recording with a couple of clicks. It’s also trivial to add a season-pass / series link to catch all episodes of your favourite shows. Programs already scheduled for recording appear purple in the EPG.
Perhaps one of the most useful features of the system is the ability to watch shows that you didn’t actually record yourself. In reality this is a little convoluted as you have to “request” the recording from another user. Once someone agrees (usually within a few minutes) you have “borrowed” their copy for 24 hours. It seems while the recording is loaned to you, its owner does not have access to it. We assume all this is to show the recordings are for single, personal use and to appease “the Man”.
The service is funded through advertising. Banners appear on the site and player but aren’t especially intrusive. On the subject of ads, commercial breaks are recorded too, but it’s easy to grab the play head and move past them.
There’s currently a request for support on the XBMC forums, which would allow users to stream recordings from the service straight onto their TVs, now that would be nice!
Recordings appear to be kept for around 60 days. It may be possible to rip the FLV files to your local machine, although we’ve not tried this, nor do we know if there would be any DRM implications. We’ve read of plans for a mobile version of the site planned for Q2 this year.
TVCatchup is a great product and one we can see ourselves using, perhaps in conjunction with our own real-world systems. It would be great for use in the office or on the road. It’s a competitor to SlingBox if you don’t have a requirement to stream live TV, and hey, at the price it can’t be beaten (the BBC, ITV and Channel4’s video on demand collaboration Project Kangaro is due later this year.)
But now for the bad news. It looks like the legality of the service may be challenged. So, are the suits going to spoil the fun? Don’t get too comfy on the sofa with your laptop just yet.