How we created the world's largest TV catch up service

In 2013, JISC (Joint information Systems Committee) announced that it would embark on an ambitious upgrade programme to advance the use of rich media in education. The government-funded RES (Research Education Space) project aimed to learn more about content usage in education and research.

Under the management of the British Universities Film and Video Council, Imagen was selected to record and archive programmes from the entire freeview/freesat spectrum - including a handful of foreign channels. Users across over 60 Universities can now choose to record programmes using an online EPG menu.

When the programmes have finished recording Imagen converts the original transport stream into proxy files for playback online. EPG and EIT metadata are also automatically extracted from the stream and are used as searchable metadata.

Despite the fact that subtitle information is stored as graphical bitmaps within the stream – Imagen runs an OCR job on the video to extract the subtitle text – this also becomes searchable metadata. This means that not only will the user find the right programme based on the EPG metadata available but they can even search within the video and be taken to specific points within the media


Imagen now provides educational users with access to a searchable archive containing over 1 million TV and radio programmes, for use on PCs and mobile devices. We think this amounts to the world’s largest TV Catch up service!

Users can also search for programmes due to be broadcast in the next seven days across 60 channels (see Imagen1.jpg), or catch up on what they’ve missed in the extended 30 day buffer. The system routinely records TV and Radio content and makes approximately 210,000 programmes immediately accessible to users via a secure web interface.

We have also connected to BBC REDUX to increase access to content and users can even search or swipe through a timeline of broadcast schedules going back as far as 2007. This connection between the two systems now provides users with access to over 1 million TV and radio programmes – users can search, playback, cite, comment, create edits and share through this feature rich VOD platform.

As the growth in digital video is set to explode across all aspects of our lives, it’s encouraging to see how key UK institutions are using our innovative recording, MAM and publishing system to recognise the educational worth of the nation’s broadcast content. Both students and staff are united in their enthusiasm for the resource, and both are aware of the value it brings to research and learning. You can see more bob national videos here: Imagen2

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