Sunday, 14 September 2008

ITV Catch Up player broken

I rarely come across something so broken that it can't even perform its most basic function. However, in the ITV web based catch up service I've found a contender!

Everyone is at it now, the BBC have the iPlayer, Channel 4 have 4oD and Sky have the Sky Player. I've used them all, the BBC iPlayer is by far the best, though 4oD comes a close second with its huge archive. However, ITV seem to have lost the plot and missed the whole point of a catch up service.... that you should be able to actually watch it!

For a start the ITV Player is web based streaming only, so you can't download content to watch later. It also uses a horrible media player built into the site that has broken controls.

I missed qualifying for the Italian F1 GP today and as it had a lot of incident I really wanted to see it. So I took a trip to to watch it before the race tomorrow, what I experienced I never want to repeat.

For a start the video quality is atrocious, compare it to other offerings and it is massively compressed. Viewed at the default postage stamp size on the website it looks almost passable, but go to full screen and you can't make anything out the pixels are so large! When I think how lovely and almost broadcast standard the iPlayer pictures are I don't know what they were thinking.

This wouldn't be quite so bad if it meant it worked well, but the streaming is terrible. I have a fabulous ADSL connection and am lucky enough to sync at almost the full 16mbps and get great download speeds. So I expected to be able to watch the programme uninterrupted, just like I do on the iPlayer or 4oD. Not so I'm afraid, I was able to watch about 20 seconds of video before it started to buffer, which made me wait a good minute. When it resumed I was given a further 30 seconds if I was lucky before having to wait a similar amount of time for the next tiny segment.

I thought I'd pause the stream and let it download the video in the background for a while, so off I went to make some tea and do a couple of other bits. When I came back and restarted the stream, I got 20 seconds of video before the next buffer session.... it seems the player won't download a large buffer at all!

As I really wanted to see the qualifying session I persevered with this for a while, until roughly half way through part one. At which point for no reason, the player jumped to the ad break and then into part two! Strangely the adverts worked perfectly, no buffering what so ever..... As soon as I was back into the F1 programme the buffer cycle started all over again, until a couple of minutes in when it decided it had had enough of part two and skipped to another ad break..... then another ad break..... and another ad break.... and another..... and another..... It was basically skipping every part of the actual programme and just showing me the adverts!

So, I reloaded the page and decided to try again. Only trying to skip part one, which I'd already seen, but this just set off another ad break loop! The "rewind" button doesn't do anything so I had to reload the page again, and the same thing happened on my third attempt.

I though maybe there was an issue with that feed, so I tried another programme, same thing happened with the buffer cycle ending in the ad loop. I thought maybe it was the browser so I tried IE, same result. I though it might be my computer so tried the laptop, still no joy.

So I haven't seen the GP qualifying, I've wasted a good hour of my evening trying and I'm pissed off! Browsing the ITV forums reveals that there are hundreds of people with the same issues and they go back months. Still they exist, still there are no signs of a fix and still ITV continue to push this "service". It's appalling, if it doesn't work, stop wasting everyone's time and remove it until it does! Don't release buggy, broken webware just to pretend you are competing with other stations, do it properly or not at all!

I know I'm not the only one, but can any of you get it to work? Has ANYONE managed to watch something without any problems?


  1. I've just given up watching ITV catch up altogether for exactly the same reasons

  2. its appaling - i always give up with itv catch up - its time it went as its a total waste of time

    stange how all the ads works perfetly!!

  3. I agree the software is appaling and does not work correctly and experienced most of the problems you encountered..

    They need to get there software working or actually
    google define: Competition.

  4. i agree with all the past comments the itv player is useless i have tried everything to make it buffer quickly and less often but nothing works at all. Why does itv insist on having ad breaks while the BBC i player and 40D dont. Its ridiculous they need to sort themselves out.

  5. Welcome to the club. A slow motion (literally) train wreck.
    * Needs Micro$oft $ilverlight (why?)
    * Often plays multiple identical adverts and then stops.
    * If you are lucky, plays the first one or 2 segments of a show then stops.
    * No rewind, skip or pause (that works)
    * No tech support (always ignored)
    * Site almost never updated (check out ‘Sharpe - coming soon’ 8 months old!)
    * Only displays properly in IE, not Firefox or other browsers
    And to cap it all, their forum password reset doesn’t work – it’s sloooow. Don’t even think about pressing the ‘back’ button. It takes you to (and locks you into) the ITV home page!!! Cretins.
    I have a degree in Computing - and have designed and built many websites: it is plain to me that this site has never been designed or tested properly. It’s been lashed together for IE6 and then patched. Oh, and the management have been conned by Micro$oft into using their streaming technology that *no-one* else uses.
    I’ve just completed the on-line survey they are popping up this week. Laughable. Designed by a monkey with one typewriter. Example: ‘which browser do you use?’ Gives choices of the major browsers but you can only select one. Idiots. Do they think we haven’t tried to get it working on more than one?
    I could go on. Oh. I already have.
    ITV: Hint - iPlayer Works. Channel 4 works. Scottish TV works. They use Flash Player. And they are properly written.

  6. just download realplayer it alows you to download video from any video website youtube etc including itv player then watch it on realplayer and keep forever.

  7. I agree with you. BBC iPlayer is the best. There are many ways to watch BBC iplayer abroad. If you are outside, UK you need to use proxies to access it and hide your IP.

    iplayer abroad