Similar to Zattoo (see our recent review), LiveStation utilizes peer-to-peer technology to deliverer live TV to a user’s PC. The software has been developed by UK startup, Skinkers, and is in-part based on technology licensed from Microsoft Research (who get a small amount of equity in return). But, perhaps most notably, the front-end for LiveStation is powered by Microsoft’s newly launched Flash-competitor, Silverlight.
LiveStation is currently running as a limited Beta (PC-only) and after several weeks waiting, I was finally able to get a look-in earlier today.
As already mentioned, LiveStation is designed to stream live television over the net, meaning that it competes more with Zattoo, as apposed to other Internet TV startups such as Joost or Babelgum, both of whom offer an on-demand experience. It’s also clear — based on very limited content — that LiveStation is at the early stage of showcasing their technology rather than launching to the public. While I’m not privy to any on-going content negotiations, the only currently available channel is a test stream of the BBC’s News24.
LiveStation’s picture quality is good, but doesn’t quite cut it running at full-screen. Doing a side-by-side comparison with Zattoo and Joost, the later faired the best, with Zattoo also slightly better than LiveStation. This suggests to me that the application is more suited to being viewed in one window on your PC while you multi-task in another. On the upside, I experienced virtually no buffering whatsoever, and if there was any, it was masked by a short pre-roll advertisement. Additionally, sound quality was excellent.
The UI for LiveStation is slick, making use of translucent overlays not dissimilar to Joost. If LiveStation is to be a showcase for Silverlight’s potential, it does a pretty good job.
LiveStation’s emphasis on streaming of live rather than on-demand TV, keeps it from competing head-on with Joost and Babelgum (both of which are extremely well funded). However, as noted, others such as Zattoo are tackling the same problem as LiveStation. In the end, as ever, content will be king. And while we don’t yet know how many different Internet TV applications a user will welcome onto their desktop, it’s likely there’s room for at least one live and one on-demand offering.
(For a close look at LiveStation, check out this video demonstration.)
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