Internet enabling my TV (in the UK)

How much of the internet do I want on my TV?

  • I am mainly interested in video services rather than everything on the internet.
  • if possible connections to my social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter so that I can share my thoughts about what I am watching especially if my friends are also watching the same programme.
  • I don’t want to pay for a monthly subscription for Sky or Virgin Media so it will have to be a Freeview or a Freesat TV.
  • I want access to UK TV Catchup services such as BBC iPlayer
  • I want access to Video on Demand services so I can watch a film of my choice.
  • I want access to Web TV so I can watch TV from countries other than the UK
  • I would also like access YouTube to view my favourite videos mine and my friends videos.

Please note: this blog is about internet enabling TVs in the UK, so there is a lot of content specific to the UK only.

Network Media Receivers

My earliest attempt was to connect a network media receiver to my TV in order to access content I stored on PCs on my home network. This allowed me to view my pictures, video, recorded TV programmes and music but didn’t give me access to the internet.  I then tried a piece of software that did give me access to certain parts of the internet but was fragile and very clunky. There are now of course network media receivers that give you access to content on your home network and windows onto certain parts of the internet like YouTube, NetFlix, Flickr.

Quiet PC with Remote Control

This took me to the stage where I considered a quiet PC connected to my TV and to the internet via my home network. I looked at Asus Eee Box and the Aspire One but settled with just connecting a laptop running Boxee which gave me remote control access to many Boxee “channels”.  Channels is the term sed by Boxee and other such portals to describe the different video on demand providers like Netflix and Pandora as well as YouTube, Flickr and Facebook.

Video Set Top Box

Boxee then launched their own Video Set top Box the Boxee Box to compete with AppleTV and the Roku box. Each of these gave you access to a number “channels” – Video on Demand services like Netflix (subscription) Hulu (not UK) and of course YouTube, Photo services like Flickr. Boxee has the advantage that it also gives me the BBC iPlayer. Roku is interesting because one of its channels is ‘Framechannel which I also receive on my WiFi Photo frame.  Framechannel in itself provides a large number of channels including Flickr and Facebook photos.

Internet enabled Freesat Player

One of the biggest prizes was to be able to access the BBC iPlayer on my TV.  I could do this with Boxee but Freesat then activated their ethernet port on their boxes and the BBC iPlayer became available on my Freesat box ( a Humax Foxsat HDR).  Now there was the possibility that my Freesat box would be come my portal to Catch Up TV and Video on Demand.

The BBC announced that Project Canvas was likely to be given the go ahead by the BBC Board and that ITV, channel 4 and Five were all signed up. Even better project Canvas was to be an open product allowing other parties to use the standard to deliver their Video using the same standard. Thus we have the possibility of Project Canvas enabled set top boxes giving us access to all the UK Catchup TV services and a plethora of other Video over the internet services including paid for services all using the same video over the internet standard.

Internet enabled Freeview Player

Freeview boxes do have an ethernet port but this has not been enabled. However there are some services based on Freeview boxes There are two subscription based services – BT Vision and Taltalk TV. Both are based on Freeview boxes but also supplying catchup TV and Video on demand. Both have also joined Project Canvas (see above).

For a non subscription Freeview box service there is Fetch TV which has a a viable Video on Demand service and includes access to the  BBC iPlayer.  3View have just brought their box to the market . This provides access to your home network, YouTube, email, Facebook and Twitter with iPlayer coming soon.

Internet enabled TVs

Finally there is the Internet TV There are a couple of interesting examples here. First is the Cello iViewer TV which gives access to the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and other WebTV services. Secondly there are TVs from Sony, Samsung, LG, Vizio that make use of the downloadable widgets from the  Yahoo Connected TV Service to give you access to Amazon Video (not UK) & Blockbuster (not UK), Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo News etc.


So where does that currently leave me?  I haven’t been that successful in linking my social networking sites to the programmes or channels I am watching, although I can view them separately. I have largely dispensed with the network media receiver leaving me with:

  • My ethernet connected Freesat player that gives me access to the BBC iPlayer and the possibility of the other catch tv services and Video on demand services through Project Canvas later this year.
  • Boxee running on my laptop connected to my TV that gives me access to the BBC iPlayer, YouTube and lots lots more, using my Windows Media Centre remote control.

Roll on the release of software and Set Top Boxes that will use the Project Canvas internet video standard.

Then of course there is always Google TV on the horizon

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Author: martinrstone

I am one of those guys who loves gadgets. I am also a keen wildlife watcher and all things to do with nature and the environment. My Personal Web Page

2 thoughts on “Internet enabling my TV (in the UK)”

  1. Sadly Project Canvas has seen more painful delays – now talk of 2011 😦

    It’s just becoming a victim of being too damned good, hence the competition are freaking out and kicking up every stink possible.

    On the plus side it may have a proper name at last – apparently ‘YouView’.

    Oh, those Foxsat HDR’s are great boxes aren’t they 🙂

  2. I agree Simon. I think Canvas/ YouView sounds really good.

    But perhaps behind all the bruhaha I can see the competition incorporating the Project Canvas standards in their boxes.

    It makes commercial sense to use an InternetTV standard rather than develop and maintain your own.

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