Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Clubcard TV: free streaming films and TV shows

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Screenshot of Tesco's Clubcard TV site

You may know that UK supermarket overlords Tesco own the Blinkbox streaming service, which lets you watch TV shows and films on a pay-per-view basis. But you may not know that they also operate a site called Clubcard TV, which streams films and TV shows, but for free.

Well, when I say ‘free’, I mean that there’s no monetary cost to watch any of the content on the site. But in a classic case of ‘you are the product’, in return for watching films without paying, you have to watch adverts before each programme. And, because it’s linked to your Clubcard number, those adverts should be tailored to your purchase history at Tesco stores. Whether you find this helpful or creepy is up to you I suppose.

Clubcard TV’s library isn’t extensive – for films, expect to find things like the 1988 film Hairspray, and lots of Bollywood films. I was pleased to find Inspector Gadget on there, but only the second series, not the first. Before you assume that everything on there is over 25 years old, you’ll be pleased to hear that there are some Wallace and Gromit shorts and a recent Gok Wan fashion series.

As well as adverts, the other major caveat is the very limited platform support. Clubcard TV requires Microsoft Silverlight, so will run on Windows or Mac, but not Linux. An app is available for some Android tablets, but not Amazon’s Kindle Fire, and there’s nothing available for iOS devices as yet. Which is a shame as Clubcard TV uses similar technology to Blinkbox and that’s available on all sorts of devices. But I suppose people pay for Blinkbox so there’s more incentive to make it widely available.

Tesco’s more cautious approach, with a limited programme selection, will hopefully mean that it won’t go the way of SeeSaw. SeeSaw was a promising service that offered a wide range of programming from BBC and Channel 4, supported by advertising, but it didn’t last long. Which is a shame.

Obviously the likes of Netflix and Amazon have little to worry about, as the selection on Clubcard TV is so restrictive, but if you can find something to watch then it beats paying for it elsewhere, if you can tolerate the advertising.

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