It might not be a surprise that the BBC iPlayer is the best and most popular catch-up service in the UK. It’s free, simple to use and now works on every major computer platform -- as well as quite a few other pieces of hardware. But the truth is, the world of TV doesn’t begin and end with the BBC.
So we wanted to look into the other services that are available and how they stack up against the market leader. Although the chances are that you’ll go the site that has the show you want, we've given a score to each one because, well, why not?
We tested each of the main broadcaster's streams on a standard Windows XP computer using an LCD monitor. Picture quality was compared based on the relative detail, sharpness and quality of each stream. In terms of content, we tested modern, digitally produced TV shows rather than archive TV and we watched a selection of different programmes to get a better idea for the overall quality of the product.
We feel compelled to say at this stage how absurd it is that we have to hunt around and use different players for different channels. It's like having four different TVs to watch BBC, ITV, C4 and C5. There should be a central, Freeview-esq system that keeps everything together, and offers content from other, smaller broadcasters too.
But with that rant out of the way, read on to see what we think of the iPlayer's competition.