TV on the iPhone isn’t anything new, but a new web site makes it much easier, more direct, and less expensive for iPhone users in the UK. Just by visiting the site and logging into the new beta web app from TV Catchup, you can access 11 slightly delayed British TV channels, streamed directly to your iPhone.
As long as you live somewhere within the UK, pointing your iPhone’s Safari browser at the TV Catchup optimized site will allow you access to Britain’s five main networks, including BBC 1 and 2, ITV and Channel 4, as well as six additional channels, including BBC 3 and 4 Music.
Attempting to access the site from outside of the UK results in a dialog informing you that you aren’t authorized to play back the content in question, which comes as no surprise given the general attitude of major U.S. TV networks when it comes to international access.
If you are in the UK, you get streams from each channel delayed only about 20 seconds behind the live TV feed. You can also watch in either landscape or portrait mode (using your phone’s built-in Quicktime player) and pause any footage.
Keen readers will observe that the BBC is already available to all on the iPhone via its own iPlayer web application (also limited to UK residents). That app provides on-demand access to many BBC programs, like TV.com does for various CBS shows in the U.S.
Apps like Slingplayer and Orb can also potentially bring live TV to the iPhone, but require expensive hardware and software additions to your existing setup, or at least an iPhone app if you already have everything else. TV Catchup only requires that you have an iPhone and a network connection, which can be either Wi-Fi or 3G.
No word on whether TV Catchup will eventually try to expand its service to include international audiences, or international stations, but I sure hope someone out there is watching and thinks this is a good idea. True, AT&T would likely try to block something like this because of the network load or because it can’t control access via subscriptions, but if it’s a similar web-based application from someone like Hulu, there’s little it can do to stop it.
Asian cell phone users have been enjoying TV on their mobile devices for years, thanks to 1seg TV antennas. It’s about time we started catching up. I suspect the last barrier will be stubborn networks. Don’t worry guys, you can still advertise to us on a mobile platform.