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TV catch-up with Kangaroo - or a dead cat bounce?

Updated Wednesday 19th December 2007

Is Kangaroo just a last ditch attempt by traditional terrestrial TV companies to hold on to their viewers?

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I don't know about you, but I rarely watch live TV nowadays...

Although we're digitally disenfranchised in our TV viewing to the extent that we don't have satellite, or even a Freeview box, we do make heavy use of a hard drive video recorder and a growing collection of DVD box sets (we're working through Spaced at the moment :-)

That said, there are occasions when, for whatever reason, we fail to record a programme we really don't want to miss (a full hard disk is the usual reason!)

This happened a couple of weeks ago, when I failed to record an episode of Spooks. This was particularly irritating because the current series uses an ongoing storyline, compared to the standalone episodes of previous seasons.

So  - what to do? My first thought was to mail round the folks at work to see if anyone there had recorded the episode. Second thought - could I pretend I wanted to use the material in a OU course and put in a request for an inspection copy?

The correct answer, of course, was neither of the above. I could watch it online - or at least, download, and then watch it within 30 days on my PC using the BBC iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC

Launched earlier this year, the BBC iPlayer is a Windows only application that lets you download a wide variety of BBC programmes up to seven days after transmission, and then view them within 30 days of download on your PC. The quality of picture isn't great - you wouldn't want to use a big screen, so we've ended up watching Spooks via a laptop in bed! - but it's fine for occasional viewing.

Channel 4 have a similar offering, called 4od - again, the service offers 30 day catch-up, at the expense of a large download, as well as subscription 'pay-on-demand' downloads - and ITV have a limited catch-up service (soaps, mainly) along with a live TV stream from their ITV Watch Now service.

In an ideal world, of course, we wouldn't need a separate application to download and replay content from each broadcast channel, and I think the broadcasters know this, so it was heartening to see the announcement at the end of November (2007) that BBC Worldwide, Channel 4 and ITV were joining forces to develop a joint on-demand catch-up service code-named Kangaroo.

This bundling will of course make sense to millions of viewers brought up on terrestrial television, where for many years the only channels available were BBC1, BBC2 and ITV, then Channel 4 and more recently Channel 5 (which we still can't receive where I live...)

But for younger audiences, who have only ever known a multitude of channels from Sky and Freeview, I wonder if they'll wonder why?

Of course, cynical commentators might see this as a last ditch attempt by our terrestrial broadcasters to keep hold of mindshare and viewer loyalty...

...and you know what? They may just be right...

PS it seems that the BBC iPlayer now offers an online, streaming service for "watch again" content. Whatever your computer, as long as it supports Flash, youy can watch BBC content via your browser.





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