Let's face it, IPTV is on the rise and that means we can expect a flood of new services based around it. Everything from social viewing experiences to new discovery services and offerings are going to be coming to market in rapid succession, especially with the push toward more and more TVs being connected to the Internet either directly or through another device like an OTT box.
Now we've got FreeCast which wants to be your personal channel guide for online TV and claims over 5000 channels available. But that isn't limited to just online versions of TV episodes. In their featured channels list are places like Openfilm, The Onion and Revision 3, as well as FOX, CBS, etc.
If you ask me, it's poorly implemented. For example look at this channel listing:
Not exactly inspiring is it? Wall of text syndrome in an IPTV service? It definitely leaves something to be desired. On a TV, that list would be terrible to read.
On top of that, what it seems to do is iFrame any site it's going to pull content from which makes sense because I'm sure places like CBS don't want their content being displayed without getting paid.
Since they are putting the content in an iframe it means they can then embed everything in a Facebook app page and allow watching through there. But they're not really doing anything that is new. All they did was pull together links to all the sites with content and then iframe the content pages. On their front page they say you can watch on a variety of devices including game consoles. However, they have an Xbox 360 image there and I know there is no web browser on that so there is no way to watch because there is no Freecast App available on the platform and with the Xbox LIVE TV initiative underway there, I don't think they would even allow it now.
Plus, they're also limited to whatever the content-producing sites are actually making available online without signing in to an account. It's not like Hulu where they have some level of control over what is there. Here's some copy from their press release:
FreeCast.com recently emerged as the web's leading provider of web-based television, offering an intuitive personal channel guide to consumers. The system is supported by an expansive video search crawler, which locates and categorizes around 1.5 million new videos each day.
As soon as a user finds something they want to watch, they simply click their mouse and get taken directly to the content provider's website.
So the heart of it all is a video search engine and, according to their statement, they are pretty much putting the content in an iframe.
Recently launched FreeCast.com, which compiles all openly available streaming and on-demand content across the globe…
Now in their Facebook App, you run into a situation where content is available only if you have a cable or satellite subscription, busting FreeCast's "death of Cable" statement in their original release. Here's an example:
So what does FreeCast offer that other similar services don't? Nothing as far as I can tell. Sure, they are pulling in video from numerous sources, but then you have to jump through hoops to get to much of the content and I don't see it reducing the amount of clicking to get to the content. The Facebook app really looks like just an iframe canvas page that pulls their site in. Then, you won't be able to get to all of the content anyway because when you click your provider (as displayed above) it opens in a new window, taking you completely out of Facebook. I could have just gone to the Time Warner site and done that myself.
I like the idea, but the implementation needs a lot of work. The claims they are making, are far larger than what they are accomplishing currently. What would be really cool would be an electronic program guide that was more organized and had fewer text walls. There's not even a queue system so you can put a list of content together to watch and of course there are no playlists, mostly because of the way that they are pulling in content. So I don't think they're going to endanger cable, satellite or even Hulu any time soon. At least with Hulu I can put together a queue, make a playlist, add bookmarks to shows, etc. It's a far better, and cleaner interface in my opinion. That's not to say that FreeCast can't better itself, but in the state it's in, I think it would be more work to use than Hulu, or just going to the respective websites and viewing the content directly.
FreeCast needs some serious work and new features to make it any kind of competition or paradigm-shifting service that it sounds like it wants to be. While I like the all-in-one attempt, I think it's going to take far more that iframes to make a truly successful IPTV discovery and content guide.