back to article OnlineTV recorder shut down

The plug has been pulled on, a legally questionable web-based personal video recorder service, that allowed users to hoard UK TV shows online for free. - tagline: "never miss a show again" - enabled members to set programmes to record up to seven days in advance. It stored up to 10GB of TV per user …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Got to admire them.....

    "we aren't recording, the users are, it is a personal service"

    Soooo if they steal cars to order, it's not them stealing them, it's their customers...Yeah right.....mmmmmm

  2. Anonymous Coward

    A real shame

    Yes, it may have been legally questionable, but it was just so much better than iplayer etc. And how much did iplayer cost to develop?

    There was a gap in the market and they filled it very well. I hope it comes back soon!

  3. davenewman
    Thumb Up

    Some organisations are licenced to record everything

    It is possible to get a licence from the Copyright Licencing Agency to record and play back any broadcast TV programme. It is particularly attractive to educational establishments, as it only costs a few hundred pounds a year. could have made money legally by offering its service to organisations with such licences.

  4. Richard Lloyd
    Thumb Down

    They never really 'perfected' the site in my books...

    I complained several times about major issues on the site, but they never fixed any of them, so I eventually gave up on it. A shame really, because it was a nice idea if it didn't have so many issues (their team spent more time redesigning the Web interface than actually fixing serious issues).

    Examples of things that never got fixed:

    * Loss of start and end of programmes, because of the lack of a concept of "auto-padding" that's in all modern PVRs.

    * Bad scheduling data losing recordings of programmes (they should be saved with a dummy name and then renamed later to their correct title).

    * Excessive CPU usage of Flash player on Linux platforms (mainly Adobe's fault admittedly).

    * Every Web UI design they had (3 or 4 of them?) broke worse and worse if you used large fonts to surf the site (e.g. 16 points).

    * Didn't cover all FTA Freeview entertainment channels, which is completely inexplicable (e.g. no Virgin 1, More 4 or Film 4).

    * Allowing "sharing" was a huge copyright violation and should never have been on the service - it might have survived if they'd never offered it. However, the material "recorded" just by a single user is still copyright and stored on a central server not at the user's home, so any domestic recording rights don't apply here - it was basically always doomed because it never had the permission of each of the copyright holders to store the material.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Worth a read!


    Because in these cases, what pirates are actually doing is highlighting a better way for us to do things; they find gaps outside the market – and better ways for society to operate. In these situations the only way to fight piracy is legitimize and legalize new innovations by competing with pirates in the marketplace. Once the new market space is legitimized, more opportunities are created for everyone.

  6. Steve Anderson


    Lardboy's right - it was actually significantly better than the commercial offerings, even if it did rely on the Freeview EPG (meaning Five's programmes were always cut off before the end). Maybe this all-broadcaster catch-up thing that we've heard the Beeb, ITV and Channel 4 want to roll out can learn something about usability and features.

  7. Mathieu

    Adam Smith?

    Now I picture this service as being my own private invisible hand pushing the record button on the VCR.

  8. j

    Strike another blow for unnovation

    Consumers will always prefer a pull market to a push market, and new content delivery methods like the net put people like catchuptv in a position to fulfill the demands of consumers where the media monoliths are too slow, or too unwilling to relax their control. And why should they? unless smaller players like this force their hand. Everybody knows what catchuptv were doing is an inevitablity, and i think it's a great pity they've been stepped on by major players who simply want to buy time to implement there own overblown and overpriced offerings.

  9. j

    Strike another blow for unnovation

    Consumers will always prefer a pull market to a push market, suppliers will always prefer the opposite. New content delivery methods like the net put people like catchuptv in a position to fulfil the demands of consumers where the media monoliths are too slow, or too unwilling to relax their control. And why should they? unless smaller players like this force their hand. Everybody knows what catchuptv were doing is an inevitability, and i think it's a great pity they've been stepped on by major players who simply want to buy time to implement there own overblown and overpriced offerings.

  10. Andrew Maddison

    @davenewman Re: Some organisations are licensed to record everything

    Offering an online backup service would have been illegal as the law currently stands. Educational establishments generally hold an Educational Recording Agency (ERA) license, allowing recording of most Free To Air channels. Specific exclusions are the provision of an online on-demand or backup service (which isn't a "broadcast" as defined by the law, as it's triggered by the end user), plus the recording of any material from the Open University (who operate their own system - and you'd be surprised how many prime-time programmes are co-productions that are copyright to the OU!).

    As ever, the law (and commercially available services) lag up to a decade behind what is happening right now, or should be happening.

  11. ElFatbob


    not sure of the legality, but just shows how the big corporations (BBC included) are extremely keen to make sure nobody muscles in on this new revenue stream.

    What gets me is the beeb is going to charge to see their extensive back catalogue 'on-demand'. So, we paid for it all first time around and now we can pay for it all again. Is the beeb going to reduce the licence fee to balance the extra revenue?

    Errr, didn't think so.

  12. Keith Eckstein

    Weirdness abounds!

    So - if I record my favourite shows on my video recorder - so that I can watch them at my convenience - is that illegal?

    If, for example, I work nights but do want to catch the latest episode of Eastenders - Should I not be allowed to record it to watch when I can?

    Who loses if I can't watch it? I'm guessing that it's the advertisers - it sure won't be me.

    What a shame that TVCatchup has gone - guess that I'll have to go out and buy a video recorder (and take the risk of being arrested!) - or just give up on those programs that aren't on when I want them to be (sorry - advertisers)

    Keith Eckstein

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It's all very fuzzy legally, but as I understand it, you are technically not allowed to keep a home video recording for more than 28days. Obviously this isn't enforced.

    The problem with this service is that the beeb et al have just spent the last God knows how long negotiating with the owners of the copyright of the programs over repeat fees etc (all actors, most at least, get extra cash for repeats) so having just negotiated this there is absolutely no chance that they'll allow a site like this to operate. Also, I don't think it specifically said in the article, but were these all free-to-air channels, if not there would be obvious objections form the channel owners.

  14. Keith Eckstein

    Reply to Fraser...

    Fraser - I don't have the faintest idea of the legalities but... I live in France (thus am an hour forward) - I work shifts (so am thus not able to always watch my programs when they are aired) - with TVCatchup I could watch my programs when it suited me - now I can't.

    Sure I'll watch French TV instead - so, I won't be tempted to buy English Baked beans though - cos I'll not see those adverts.

    I can live without Eastenders - can Heinz live without me being a potential consumer?

    Keith Eckstein

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE:Weirdness abounds!

    "So - if I record my favourite shows on my video recorder - so that I can watch them at my convenience - is that illegal?

    If, for example, I work nights but do want to catch the latest episode of Eastenders - Should I not be allowed to record it to watch when I can?"

    You are - you’re allowed to record a programme for personal *domestic* use. A large commercial server farm with capture cards in it that surrounds the distribution with advertising but doesn't pay for any of the rights however is not, under any sense of the words "domestic use".

    On the plus side one would imagine TVCatchup will have a reasonable case against their lawyers for negligence. They did claim to have some.

  16. Keith Eckstein

    Richard Lloyd

    I'll also complain about the excessive CPU usage on my Linux box but... it was the only realistic way I could watch what I wanted to, when I wanted to.

    I'm now without UK TV - UK advertisers are without me - I'll survive, will they?

    Keith Eckstein

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ Keith


    Did you actually buy much the UK advertisers were advertising?

    I am sure that they will notice the impact of you not spending your Euros on their products less than you feel the impact of being forced to watch French TV.

  18. Excoriator

    Why it was pulled

    As I understand it, the site was pulled not because of its legality or otherwise, but because the bandwidth demand was too great for their ISP to handle.

    I think this is a serious flaw in the idea, and I can't see any other ISPs queueing up for the privilege of having their systems crashed by too much data either.

    No doubt there are ways round this, but they probably involve multiple ISPs or multiple sites but this will involve hugely more hassle and expense. My guess is that it has gone for a long time, probably forever.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I wasn't suggesting it wasn't a usefull service, but if you live in France, do you pay a licence fee? If not, like it or not, you're not entitled to any of the beeb's content (with the exception of certain parts of their web site, world service and streaming/listen again radio), I'm not sure if you are entitled to any of the rest free-to-air in the UK, although I suspect not.

    If the service allows UK free-to-air stuff to be uploaded outside of the UK, there are obvious problems with copyright there. This is because the copyright owners sell many programs to other broadcasters around the world and this would (slowly at first) erode their income stream. It has also been mentioned that the site used advertising, both the advertisers within programs which have adverts and the TV companies are not going to be happy about this, because you may end up with inappropriate or conflicting advertising next to a program that you are downloading. Also if this is the case, it would remove the argument that 'it's like lending a mate a recording' because it would mean that a commercial transaction is taking place.

    PS. As a pedantic point, the beeb aren't really going to care that much about you not seeing adverts, for obvious reasons.

  20. David S


    Since the brand you immediately linked with the concept "Beans" was "Heinz", I'd say their advertising had already done its job. So no biggie you not watching their adverts any more.

    Anyway, you're living in France. What the bloody hell are you doing even thinking of heinz beans?

  21. John Taylor

    A shame

    Certainly for me it would have given me an option of a third tuner without messing about so much with mains powered splitters and numerous problems with media centre the whole lot

  22. Nigel Rook

    Cheeky? Really?

    "TVCatchup's operators aimed to fund the site through advertising, and said it had approached ITV, Sky and Channel Five to offer to sell them slots on the site. The cheek is admirable, really."


    OK, so this doesn't apply to sky, who manage to put out at least some decent content, but who in their right mind would want to record anything that airs on either ITV or Channel Five?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    replaced by...

    I had never heard of the site in the article till today, and all im thinking is that it would have made a neat replacement for bit torrent + rss feed.

    People seem to be complaining that they wont be able to watch such programs anymore.... erm... are bit torrent clients not allowed anymore? Having the client automatically download your favourite show as they become available?

    paris uses rss feeds

  24. Keith Eckstein

    A response

    Anonymous Coward - no, my expenditure on UK products was not affected either way by exposure to UK TV - I'm sure that the advertisers don't really care.

    Fraser - see above.

    John Taylor - my point exactly!

    David S. You're dead right - It's strange what we miss though, ain't it?

    All - to an expat, the advertising power/revenue of a site like TVCatchup is limited (although watching someone eat Beans on toast might tempt me to pay the way over the odds price for a tin of Baked Beans over here). What I liked was being able to book/record in advance some of my favourite shows and then watch them at my leisure.

    I'm sure that the expat community is a very small part of the equation but, many of my friends over here feel the same. Sure, we can all get Satellite TV (for a cost) but we don't want to be slaves to it (Corrie, Eastenders et al.) - being able to just watch those few programs that we really like was very good for us.

    Perhaps someone with a bit of intelligence could come up with a TVCatchup service for the expat community - with targeted advertising (cheap flights etc.) to make it worthwhile for them.

    Keith Eckstein

    P.S. I'd just like to say R.I.P. - you are sorely missed!

  25. Keith Eckstein

    Bit torrent, in France?

    Anonymous Coward - As I understand it, many of us in France are worried that our internet transfers via Bit Torrent are at risk here in France. Something that Sarky said about protecting the French Music industry?

    Apparently, any of us who exceed certain limits are going to have our internet access cut off?

    Keith Eckstein

  26. miriam

    so sad

    does anyone remember the net 10-15 years ago......

  27. David Owen

    broadcasters = king kanute?

    When are the broadcasters going to realise they are fighting a loosing battle here?

    At the moment, each national broadcaster insists on the consumer installing their own PVR/time-shifting software (e.g. iplayer, Sky Anyime, 4oD). What ever happened to open standards?! Why on earth should I have to install a separate software application for each set of channels!?

    They are also trying clinging on to this notion of geographc 'syndication', when the market for content is truely global (does anyone not have a region-free DVD player now?). There is a vested interest in retaining the model where a single TV show is sold to each national broadcaster, rather than directly to consumers.

    What consumers actually want is a solution that allows them to catch content from anywhere in the world, without being constrained by a particular broadcaster or geography. The actual mechanics of how this business model will make money (e.g. advertising or subscription) will work itself out....

  28. Excoriator

    Voluntary suspension?

    The TVCatchup site now displays a notice claiming that they were closed down 'presumably' at the request of the broadcasters, but have decided to stay off the air until the matter is resolved.

    I think it's much more likely that the bandwidth demands have proved too much for their ISP, and it has nothing to do with the broadcasters who are much more likely to serve an injunction on them than ask the ISP to shut them down.

    They claim to be sending at a rate of about 512 kbits/sec. which is why its a bit jerky and the definition is less than perfect, so you can work out what a few thousand independently timed copies of the latest simpsons episode going out simultaneously is likely to involve, as well as the ISPs problems in handling such a load.

    I think this problem is the achilles heel that will kill the idea.

  29. Anonymous Coward

    @Stu Reeves

    You mean I can get a car stolen to order? Any Rolls around this week?

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @David Owen (4oD vs iPlayer vs ...)

    Give the UK broadcasters another year or two and they *will* have a multichannel shared VoD player, according to Nov 2007's announcements of Project Kangaroo (e.g. says "BBC Worldwide, Channel 4 and ITV are to launch a video-on-demand service offering more than 10,000 hours of TV programming.")

    All it needs is to be supported by every other broadcaster in the Internet-connected world, and by the film studios and record companies, without any DRM infestation (which probably also implies zero cost for content), and it'll be nearly as useful as a torrent client, wouldn't you say?

    Or maybe not, if Gordon Broon can force ISPs to police what their punters are doing online. There's money at stake here, same as there was with Tony Bliar and BAe, so nomally I'd expect that money trumps law, but Mark Thomas and CAAT may just be about to get Tony's cronies into trouble over BAe. Better be careful, Gordon.

  31. Lotaresco

    So long and thanks for all the fish

    Well, it wasn't the greatest interface, it had problems accurately recording shows, and it was always going to be a matter of time before the TV companies involved assembled a "crack team of high-powered legal talent" but I suspect the most galling thing to those companies is that TVCatchup managed to do for £100,000 what they have not been able to do for "quite a bit" more.

    As far as I could tell the program delivery was as secure, if not more so than iPlayer.

    And I can't see in what way the TV companies and the content providers were losing out. Most of the content made available was stuff that no one in their right mind would ever pay for on DVD. And if someone did want, desperately to watch the content several times over, they only had a relatively short window of time in which to do so.

    Ah well, I'll place an order for a PVR now.

  32. Walter McCann


    All you need is the following:

    1) Sky+ box

    2) Sling Box

    3) laptop or 3g phone with sling player

    Sky+ is now free, slingbox is free, use sky's remote record system to record your program (on you phone or from their website). Watch when at home or anywhere via Slingbox (works great on a toshiba g900).

    You have control, no violations and works great.

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