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TVCatchup is an internet television service for viewing certain UK channels from free-to-air digital terrestrial and satellite broadcasters live without the use of a television receiver. The service re-broadcasts BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and free to air Sky channels. Initially the legality of the service was questioned causing it to be suspended. The service was relaunched minus the network PVR functionality offering a roster of TV channels upon free registration. As the service permits the viewing of live television channels a TV licence is required. The service is only accessible in the United Kingdom and the website has stringent monitoring facilities that they use to detect and block multiple accesses from the same IP address as well as proxy and VPN access. The service is funded by advertising, with a pre-roll advertisement preceding the live channel stream.
Launched in late 2007, the site was initially conceived as an online PVR service, where users could select shows from one of 30 free-to-air channels to record up to one week in advance of their broadcast. These online recordings could not be legally downloaded by the user, merely viewed online. They could however be temporarily lent to other users who had not recorded the show, for a period of up to 60 days after their broadcast, when they were then removed from the site. The site differed from broadcaster services such as the BBC iPlayer, 4oD and Demand 5 in that content was not instantly available to users, but had to be recorded in advance or requested. Just like a physical PVR, users were also able to create a series-link so that all future broadcasts of, for example, their favourite soap or documentary, would automatically be recorded.
Following concerns from broadcasters about the functionality of the site itself, TVCatchup went offline. Visitors to the site were presented with the following message:
“On 15th February, our hosting was terminated without warning and we presume this was at the request of such Broadcasters. Given that this will no doubt happen again, TVCatchup has therefore voluntarily suspended its services whilst the concerns of the Broadcasters are addressed.”
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The site remained offline until 10 October 2008 when it relaunched in beta status. The site currently offers users the ability to watch some Freeview channels live but has disabled earlier PVR functionality. It also operates a policy to encourage development of third party applications for uses such as recording shows, transcoding to allow storage/viewing on mobile applications and PVR like functions on the user's PC.
Opinion that the website is lawful has been given by prominent copyright experts Hamlins LLP of London and Robert Engleheart QC of Blackstone Chambers. Broadcasters have further participated in assessing the website prior to launch, and have been reported as having identified no legal cause to oppose the service.
The service makes it abundantly clear that users should be in possession of a UK TV licence to watch television as it is being broadcast and has tried to introduce strict geographical blocking and encryption measures to prevent direct access by those not entitled to use the service. It is known that there are many ways to circumvent these measures by use of a VPN and thus bypass the security of the website by making the user appear to be situated within the UK; however, the website has stringent IP monitoring facilities that they use to detect and block multiple accesses from the same IP as well as all proxy and VPN access.
Since late April 2009, the site has been blocking access from many proxy servers, rendering it impossible to view without meeting the original criteria, that users should be UK based. TVCatchup does not verify if users have a TV licence; however, users are advised on registration to TVCatchup that one is needed.
On 30 May 2009 the site launched a redesigned look and several new channels. However, they temporarily withdrew access to some new channels and their desktop application pending network improvements. They also removed their new FLEX web player and use the old player temporarily. After a complete re-write of their new system and a quadrupling of network capacity, at the beginning of August, the FLEX player was re-introduced along with numerous additional channels, including those from satellite sources. The desktop application is still disabled pending release of a new PVR application.
Following on the heels of their successful launch of their iTVC web application for iPhone users, allowing an alternative to BBC iPlayer for viewing live streamed broadcast TV for free, TVCatchup have announced that they are preparing to launch a full PVR application for download by users that will allow them to enjoy full Sky+ functionality on their PCs. This is scheduled for launch in 2010, along with an official iPhone application. While other smartphones (symbian, android) are able to download programmes from the BBC iPlayer for later viewing, the Apple iPhone cannot do this at present. TVCatchup have also released their radio streams, however only some work as it is in beta. They have also released an iPad version including all 48 of their channels.
In June 2010, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 issued legal proceedings against TVCatchup. An attempt by TVCatchup to have the case thrown out of court was denied by Mr Justice Kitchin, who said that "the claim has a real prospect of success". In the hearings held in June 2011, Mr Justice Floyd in the High Court of Justice deemed that some operations of TVCatchup may be unlawful. He ruled that TVCatchup's defence relying on section 73 of the Copyright Design and Patents Act 1988 was valid, allowing the service to retransmit 'qualifying services', namely all BBC services, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, over the Internet. The judgment expressly excludes retransmission of any other channels under these provisions as well as retransmission to 3G mobile devices, home WiFi Mobile reception remains unaffected. However, the judge has referred to the European Court of Justice for guidance on certain aspects of the case.
Ways to watch the service 
As of November 2010, the service can be viewed on any average computer with a web browser with Adobe Flash installed. It used to be watchable on a PS3, however as of a firmware update in 2010 this is no longer possible. The service can also be viewed on the Windows Media Center functions of Windows Vista (Home Premium and Ultimate) and Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005. There was also an Adobe AIR desktop application released in Beta mode on 28 April 2009 for the Ubuntu 8.10 operating system, which was to be gradually updated to include features such as a full TV guide and PVR with a feature to enable iPhone and iPod touch owners to use the service also in Beta. iPhone and iPod touch users can access the service by navigating to http://iphone.tvcatchup.com in their Safari mobile browser. It is also possible to view on the iPad by using the iPad version which released Version 1.6 on 28 October 2010, at http://ipad.tvcatchup.com via Safari on the device. Android users on version 2.2 (Froyo) or above, Palm Pre and BlackBerry users can use http://m.tvcatchup.com via the browser to access the website and have full access to all the streams. In late 2011, GZero released a TVCatchup iOS app on the iTunes Store. In September 2012, TVCatchup and GZero launched an Android app, downloadable from the Google Play store. In February 2013 an app was launched for Windows Phone 8. There is also a plug-in available for XBMC.
Television channels 
TVCatchup allows users to watch from a choice of free-to-air channels, all of which are preceded by streamed commercials.
See also 
- "Do I need a TV Licence to watch TVCatchup?". TVCatchup. 23 July 2009. Retrieved 2011-12-14.
- "Site Policy; Use of Proxies & VPNs". TVC_Admin. Retrieved 01-08-2009.
- Sweeney, Mark (17 December 2007). "TVCatchup faces legal battle". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- Clover, Julian (19 February 2008). "Copyright catches up with TVCatchup". Broadband TV News. London. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
- Kiss, Jemima (18 February 2008). "TVCatchup suspended after complaints". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- Kiss, Jemima (19 February 2008). "TVCatchup - filling the gaps left by broadcasters?". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- Bradshaw, Tim (10 June 2010). "TVCatchup website faces legal challenge". Financial Times. London. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
- Andrews, Robert (29 November 2010). "In Online TV Re-Streaming, UK’s TVCatchup Dealt A Legal Blow". paidContent:UK (ContentNext Media Inc). Retrieved 29 November 2010.
- ITV Broadcasting Ltd & Ors v TV Catch Up Ltd, [2010 EWHC 3063 (Ch)] (25 November 2010) (“I am satisfied that the claim does have a real prospect of success. Accordingly, this application must be dismissed.”).
- Andrews, Robert (9 August 2011). "Broadcasters Get A Mixed Judgment Against TVCatchup". paidContent:UK. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
- ITV Broadcasting Ltd & Ors v TV Catchup Ltd, [2011 EWHC 1874 (Pat)] (18 July 2011) (“The section 73 defence applies to the qualifying services, but not in respect of re-transmission to mobile phones or of out of area services.”).
- ITV Broadcasting Ltd & Ors v TV Catchup Ltd, [2011 EWHC 2977 (Pat)] (14 November 2011).
- "Vista Media Center Beta Testers Wanted". studly_steve007. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
- "Tvcatchup’s desktop Application Guide". TV Catchup team. Retrieved 2009-04-30.
- "TVCatchup for iOS review". Macworld UK. 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
- "TV Catchup lands on Google Play". Digital Spy. 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
- "Choosing parts for a £1,000 games PC". The Guardian. 2012-08-24. Retrieved 2012-09-10.