We all know the future of television lies in the Internet. Its ability to stream video on demand means it's almost inevitable we'll start to see full-blown movies and TV shows pumped directly from the Web to your telly.
Hoping to take a slice of the IPTV pie is Rok, with a new service known as FreeBe TV -- a system that lets you watch a selection of 'television' stations over the Internet on your PC or via a mobile phone.
We say 'television' because it's not really TV. It's all a bunch of public domain videos that have presumably been abandoned by their former copyright holders. There are 12 in total, including 'Monkey News Network' (featuring news presented by a gorilla) 'Toon Time' (showing Tom & Jerry -- without a cat or mouse in sight) and the 'Movie Vault' (which has such delights as The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Okay, so they sound a bit rubbish, but at least they're free, right? Wrong. Over a PC they are, but if you choose to watch them on your mobile phone you'll need to connect to the Web via GPRS. And there's the catch: the FreeBe TV video stream is in the region of 30-35Kbps, and if your mobile phone tariff gives you GPRS access at around £2.30 per MB (on Vodafone) -- watching a 30 minute movie would cost you over £18. Watching the same video on T-Mobile (without the 'Web & Walk' option) would cost you over £5,700! Either way, it's not so 'Free'Be TV after all.
We desperately wanted to like FreeBe TV -- we're massive fans of Homechoice, which works in a vaguely similar way. But we can't see the point in watching Internet video you can't even rewind, and we'll be damned if we'll pay over five thousand pounds (or even £18) to watch crap that the film-makers have confined to the copyright scrapheap. Do yourself a favour: go chew on some razor blades, step in front of a moving train, go smoke some cigarettes -- just don't use FreeBe TV.
We're off to watch YouTube. -RR
Update: Since this blog entry was posted, FreeBe TV has updated its Web site to recommend customers' mobile tariffs have a GPRS allowance or they will be charged by their network operator to use the FreeBe TV service.