ITV has been tweaking its online catch up TV service, and has introduced a few improvements for customers viewing video on its website, using Microsoft Silverlight.

ITV video player / Silverlight

The service is going to be rebranded as the ‘ITV Player’, which is at least a bit more distinctive than ‘catch up’. As well as a new name, ITV needs to be improve the usability of its online video, so what difference has Silverlight made to this? 

ITV’s catch up service, thanks to the content on offer, has seen an increase in usage this year, with video views up by 600% year on year.

This still lags behind the iPlayer, which has had 237m requests to view videos since launching last Christmas. While it could be argued that the BBC has a better range of content on offer, I think a lot is due to the superior usability of the iPlayer.

The use of Microsoft Siverlight promises to improve this, but first users need to download an update:

ITV Silverlight update

The update offers improvements including an indicator bar to show how much of the video has been played, where the adverts are due to appear, and new icons for volume controls and full screen mode.

More useful is the ability to skip back and forth on videos, which is handy if you missed the end of Coronation Street and need to catch up on the last ten minutes.

You can’t skip the ads though, which is understandable as ITV, unlike the BBC needs ad revenues, though some web users may find it annoying that, wherever you choose to start the video you are still compelled to watch a 20 second advert.

All these changes are good, and work reasonably well, though the video can take time to start again after skipping:

ITV video player - waiting to load

The big problem with the ITV video service is the lack of a decent sized player to view the videos in. You still just have the option of a tiny screen, smaller than a YouTube video:

ITV small video player screen

The alternative is the full screen view, but the quality of the picture is so poor that I couldn’t watch a full programme this way, though the standard iPlayer in full screen suffers from the same issues.

This is why an in-between screen size option is essential; you can get a decent picture quality in a screen size that is OK for viewing entire programmes, rather than short clips:

iPlayer screen size

The BBC has offered to share the iPlayer technology with ITV and Channel 4, and, unless ITV has some other usability updates planned alongside the rebranding, it would be wise to accept the proposal.

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