Zattoo is an Internet TV service which, like Joost and Babelgum, utilizes peer-to-peer technology to deliver streaming video to a PC. However, that’s where most of the similarities end. For a start, Zattoo isn’t an on-demand affair, and instead offers live streaming of existing ‘over-the-air’ and cable channels. And rather than attempting to re-create the lean-back experience of traditional television, the service is more at home used in a multi-tasking environment, where users watch television in one window on their computer, while accomplishing other tasks in another, such as chatting to friends over IM, surfing the web or writing email.
The player itself (Mac, Windows and Linux) is incredibly simple, comprising of one window for the video stream, and a second listing the available channels. Clicking on each channel invokes a few seconds of buffering before the live stream begins playing. Other than that, you have a volume control, a full-screen option, and a play/stop button. And that’s pretty much it.
In terms of picture quality, this isn’t quite on-par with regular digital television, but isn’t far off either. With the window set at quarter size on my laptop, it was great, and at full-screen, still perfectly watchable. Channel line-up varies per-country, but the version I tested had all of the BBC’s channels, along with ITV1, MTV, Bloomberg, and European stations such as Canal and Eurosport.
The downside is — after initially launching in Switzerland where the company claims one in five broadband users subscribe to Zattoo — the service is only additionally available in Spain and Denmark, with the UK currently in a public testing phase (though the company is working hard to launch elsewhere). That’s a pity for now, as Zattoo is a nice compliment to other Internet TV services. Despite the trend towards anytime and on-demand content, there’s still a place for ‘live’ TV, in particular with regards to sports events or breaking news. Another thing lost with on-demand television is the communal viewing experience that often creates those ‘water cooler’ moments the following day.
Also see: Interview: Zattoo co-founders
Zattoo’s business model is ad-supported. When a user first selects or switches channel, they are served up a 3-10 5 second advertisement (the time it usually takes for the stream to buffer). The ads are also clickable, with links to get more information.