I mentioned a couple of weeks back that Christine and I were in the audience for Jo Brand’s Big Splash, which is a show on the channel Dave. And as I mentioned in my blog post about the digital switchover, neither of our two means of receiving digital TV – Freeview and Freesat – carry Dave; Dave is not on Freesat and we don’t have a strong enough signal to get Dave through Freeview where we live. Dave also isn’t carried by Freesat from Sky, which is Sky’s subscription-free service, so theoretically our only option to get Dave is by signing up to Sky’s Entertainment pack, which is £20 per month – a lot of money for a few extra channels that we’re unlikely to watch.
Thankfully, there’s TVCatchup, a site which lets you stream the channels normally on Freeview over the internet. Despite its name, it isn’t a TV on demand service (according to Wikipedia, it used to be) – it just shows the channels as if they were live. It primarily uses Adobe Flash although iPad and iPhone versions are available.
Channels unavailable to us normally but on TVCatchup include the aforementioned Dave as well as Really, Yesterday, Five US, Five*, Sky News, Pick TV and Viva – none of these are on Freesat and we can’t get them on Freeview in our area.
The sound and picture quality isn’t great – about the same as your average YouTube video – but there were no interruptions to the stream and it didn’t have to pause to re-buffer. On the commercial channels you will get the adverts that are broadcast as normal, and I imagine that for BBC One and ITV1 you would get the London stream – i.e. no regional variations. Best of all, it’s completely free.
As for the legality of it, the site was sued by ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 last year, however the litigation failed in July. Therefore, there shouldn’t be any legal issues provided that you have a valid TV License for your household.