The new 4OD web player is shit

Posted by: on Nov 23, 2011 | 21 Comments

Tonight my wife and I wanted to catch up with Misfits on 4OD. The result can only be described as being shafted by bad business choices, bad design and bad code.

We started off trying to watch it on the tv via AirPlay to the apple tv, from the iPad. That one sentence tells you that apple are certain to raid the tv market. Remove two components from that list.

Anyway it was fail. Every three minutes or so the 4OD app stopped streaming to apple tv. BBC iPlayer in Safari streams fine so it’s either the 4od app not liking AirPlay or a new iOS 5 bug as we did this fine before 5.0.1

We resorted to watching on the MacBook pro as we had done in the past fine.

Harbinger of what was to follow – channel 4 site demanded I upgrade Flash first. Fine

We start watching. Subjected to 3 mandatory viewing ads at the start all is well for a while.

Another ad break, another 3 ads. Some repeated from before. Watch some more.

Oh noes! Pop up message saying there’s an error and the content can’t be played. Video stops. Hmm. Press play again. Starts from beginning.

Watch first three ads I enjoyed so much again. Unmissable, really.

Fast forward to next mandatory ad section to try to get to where we were.

Watch 3 more ads a second time. Its awesome.

Watch some more misfits at last.

Oh noes! Error message again. Video carries on though. Message goes away by itself after many seconds. Hooray! Watch some more.

Error message again! Video stops. Press play again. Yay! Carries on from 2 ad breaks back, but not from the start. We’re blessed! Skip to ad break before last error point. Bonus! Only see 1 repeat ad!

Oh noes! The missing 2 ads are undead and playing in the background somehow – audio is mixed with programme audio. Press space to try to pause to work out what is going on. Pressing space doesn’t pause. It opens a new browser window with an advert for Assassins Creed – one of the ads we were not currently viewing. Soon discover clicking anywhere on the player window launches last ad’s website. Just what I wanted. Especially 5 minutes after avidly watching an ad.

I have no other browser tabs or windows open with the video streams of the ads. Player has simply gone mad. We wait for ads we cannot see but can hear to finish.

Unpause the player, full screen it again, watch more misfits.

Oh noes! Another error message. Video carries on, message obscuring screen for minutes.

Bonus! Audio from ads we cannot see becomes mixed in again! Now I have mastered this streaming tv technology I know to pause the video, mute the audio, wait a few minutes, unmute, resume video. Perfect!

We carry on watching, we’re 38 minutes into a 45 minute programme – but its taken over an hour to get this far. The magic of tv is somewhat eroded. Only in part due to more ads than content.

Oh noes! A few minutes before the end another error message, video stops. Press play… back at the beginning! YES! I had forgotten those original ads at the start that were repeated throughout, and wanted to catch up on those again. Thank you Channel 4.

The final insult, though perhaps merciful: the laptop battery runs out and it all shuts down.

I pick up the iPad, open 4od app, press play on Misfits. Have to watch one short ad, then can instantly jump to the last few minutes and watch it flawlessly while holding the iPad aloft.

This experience speaks volumes about the state of current computing, tv, media, advertising and software development.

If it weren’t for the iOS AirPlay bug none of this would have happened.

Fear the Apple TV chaps.

Oh, and there must be a separate team doing 4OD for iPad, cos the experience is infinitely better than the web one. Far fewer ads. Rapid seeking. No upgrades. No Flash. Great content. Anywhere.

That’s all you need – happy consumers.

And believe it or not that’s what advertisers need.



  1. Roisin
    January 5, 2012

    Agreed. I am currently attempting to watch Misfits on my macbook pro, on 4od catch-up. It worked for a while, hooray! But then halfway through decided things were going so well, it was going to try glitching every three seconds.
    This is why I don’t bother with channel 4 anymore. Absolutely rubbish.

  2. jop
    April 20, 2012

    I totally agree. pile of rubbish, had 3 audio’s at one point, it’s made the BBC iplayer look amazing!

  3. Nicky
    May 12, 2012

    It’s actually shocking. I think there is something more sinister going on. Ad revenue for example, i.e the more hits they get the more the ad chimps pay. Not only taking the piss out of the viewer but swindling the ad idiots too. Three different people didn’t watch your shit Renault car ad, some poor fuck had to watch it three times because of your magic buffering that never ends and now hates your company and the French into the bargain.
    Two complaints to the washed up posh hippy cunt in charge and nothing back (I called him a hippy but not posh or a cunt) it’s ridiculous.
    Four On Demand? I demand to watch loads of shit adverts and the programme to stop for no reason. It’s really not as good as it sounds.

  4. Dan
    October 12, 2012

    Trying to watch last nights Plane Crash docu, and so far I’ve only managed to get the ads to play. they work flawlessly..every time..when the programme is about to start, 4 seconds in, it stops..i hit pause and play and lo and behold…get to watch all 6 ads again. BBC iPlayer is amazing in comparison, this is ridiculous.

  5. Nicky
    October 15, 2012

    I don’t even bother attempting to watch anything on 4o shite. I’ll check out if there is anything decent on and watch it on Youtube. Low and behold it’s virtually unwatchable on Youtube now too. They’ve dumped their plans for their radio station and the utter incompetence of 4od streaming can only be self sabotage. I’ve complained before and it’s pretty clear they are stupid arseholes who think having a floppy fringe and wearing pretend spectacles is a higher priority than actually hiring competent web engineers. Quite ironic considering proper computer geeks have shit hair and wear real glasses.

  6. Simon
    October 22, 2012

    Tried to watch the last three minutes of last week’s Homeland (Ep2) on 4OD (because C4 HD is so fecking useless it doesn’t broadcast the accurate recording flags and my beloved Humax missed the end).

    Watched 5 adverts

    Tried skipping to the end, but clicked on the ad instead because skipping not available quite yet. PC became unresponsive while Nokia page froze for 10s! Finally got back to 4OD and skipped..

    Watched another 5 adverts.

    “Hmm, this doesn’t look like the one I just watched, maybe I missed more than I thought – skip back a bit more and see”

    Watched another 5 adverts (at this point, I’ve seen precisely 5s of the show.)

    “Still doesn’t look right, skip back another 10 mins”

    Watched another 5 adverts

    Bollocks, they’re showing Episode3! I checked and the page definitely said Ep.2 – Nice one 4OD.

    Gave up and downloaded the torrent in 15mins

    And they wonder why people download stuff….

  7. frank
    November 8, 2012

    Dear Corporate Overpaid TV Exec who knows nothing about TV but makes all the decisions anyway,

    Everything that is written here happens to me pretty much every time I use your player…..

    If you going to be part of the OD generation you need to do better than this….

    Your player is seriously flawed. it functions normally approx 1 times in 10.

    oh and lets not get started on the over the top amount of adverts… and the fact you have to watch them again and again when it crashes…..

    Please see Dave’s OD player, demand5 or iplayer for inspiration….



  8. Nicky
    November 9, 2012

    Every on demand has turned into shit. BBCi is crap now too. Lovefilm is bollocks, Netflix runs like a dream…most of the time. I blame that pepper flash bullshit.

  9. Nicky
    November 9, 2012

    4OD have managed to speed up the loading time of their home page by putting less information on it. So clever. Just shows what idiots they have working for them and more importantly the idiots in charge that fall for that shite.
    Doesn’t really matter anymore because there is literally fuck all worth watching on 4OD. It is going to be a problem when Peep Show 8 comes out later this month. If there are any documentary makers out there then a comparison with the people under the stairs as I know them, having worked as a dishwasher in the BBC, compares to the Channel 4 IT dept. Loads of natural light and banana trees, break every 4.5 minutes and a lunch menu that allows for being sick inbetween courses.
    When a piss take of Curb is the funniest thing on tv this month then we’ve got to worry.

  10. Dave
    November 13, 2012

    Tip: Watch through chrom/firefox with the adblock plugin installed. Still buffers like shit but at least you’re saved the ads.

  11. Deb
    November 24, 2012

    It’s not just on Mac, Channel 4′s catchup service is the worst out there. Not only are the ads a pain – this constant video stopping means that it takes me 15 mins to watch 6 adds – which are obligatory at the start.

    I also resent that some programmes are not viewable unless you register. No other catch-up player demands that. So I just miss those ones out.

    Very poor, but then it is coming from the weakest channel on TV, so I manage quite well as Misifts is about the only thing worth watching on this channel. I can find them elsewhere.

    Shame on you channel 4

  12. krad
    November 26, 2012

    its definitely them as its shit on the youview box as well and if they cant make it work on a static platform what hope is there. It works fine on all the other players

  13. Koxie
    December 16, 2012

    They are driving us to use torrents. The shitter the catch up services the more people will turn to piracy.

  14. AndyG
    December 19, 2012

    Misfits crashed on 4od with my PlayStation app. Moved to iPad instead. Had to go through 8 + 8 + 6 (22) adverts just to get back to where I was … and the quality is terrible. Might just buy on iTunes / amazon next time. Buggy, poor quality and way too many adverts!

  15. Simon
    December 19, 2012

    Problem is, the arseholes in charge don’t get it. Until they do, I will continue to download the torrent for any C4 content I have missed.

  16. Dave
    December 20, 2012

    Chrome/Firefox etc allows you to use an ad blocker plugin. Does the iPad not have an app for that?

  17. lolly wolly pop (@lollywollypop)
    February 7, 2013

    4oD is absolute pants !

  18. Cas
    February 9, 2013

    I also find the service shit. Tried their help and that is as people describe bollocks. May as well be a bot replying with an email that says we don’t care it doesn’t work just keep watching adverts and earning us money.
    How can adverts play if the tv show won’t. Every other service I player, YouTube etc work fine and their ads just not the content. This is a major reason for piracy to continue

  19. Wilson Laidlaw
    February 15, 2013

    The app is total pants. I got part of the way through one episode of World Without End, with loads of adverts. Had to shut down to do something else and now 4OD is locked on offering me episodes of One Born Every Minute (maybe they are referring to the technical department of Channel 4). I cannot get to any other screen, even the home one. I am going to have to delete and maybe reinstall. It is so bad, I am tempted not to bother, except 4OD is still not working on Sky On Demand, months after they said it was “coming soon”.

  20. Ad
    February 25, 2013

    4od is an absolute disgrace. It is pretty much impossible to watch anything on there.

    6-8 adverts before the show and at intervals throughout. Then you have adverts for channel 4 shows, then an advert telling you that you’re watching 4od (why thank you for that information, I would have been lost without it) then there is the advert for the sponsor of your chosen show and then, finally, you can watch it.

    Watch it until it starts buffering every bloody 30 secs or so that is.

    Pathetic service. Should be boycotted until they sort it out properly.

  21. Winky
    March 21, 2013

    I thought it was just me! I get adverts running in the background quite frequently. At the moment I’m being haunted by an Alfa Romeo ad I must have heard (but never seen) 100 times. My solution is to wait for the ads to end and the show to start, pause it, refresh my browser (IE) F5 and restart the vision. This seems to work until the NEXT ad break.