Zattoo – live TV on your PC

Zattoo - live TV on your PCZattoo 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.

Zattoo - live TV on your PC

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.

Also see: Yay! Legal loophole allows Zattoo to expand UK channel lineup

Zattoo - live TV on your PCThe 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.

last100 is edited by Steve O'Hear. Aside from founding last100, Steve is co-founder and CEO of Beepl and a freelance journalist who has written for numerous publications, including TechCrunch, The Guardian, ZDNet, ReadWriteWeb and Macworld, and also wrote and directed the Silicon Valley documentary, In Search of the Valley. See his full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.

27 Responses to “Zattoo – live TV on your PC”

  1. I’m waiting for border lines to become irrelevant with these services; I want to watch American cable TV, and I want my American family to be able to watch the BBC! I’m aware of the rights issues involved, but it seems so old world compared to what’s possible – hopefully someone can sort this out once and for all?

  2. Steve O'Hear says:

    Every Internet TV service I’ve tested which offers mainstream content, suffers from World rights issues. It’s a pain to say the least. The strangest one is that UK users can’t usually access BBC World (the commercial Int. offering of BBC content), even though we pay for the Beeb!

  3. Steve, thanks for the positive review. A couple of comments from our side:
    _ The test version in the UK currently features indeed all of the BBC channels as well as DW, France 24, SF info, TVE Internacional and TVP Polonia. The other channels you mention are avaiable in other European countries.
    _ The Zattoo player is also available for Linux, in addition to Mac and Windows versions.
    _ Zattoo ads are limited to 5 sec – as unintrusive as possible 🙂

  4. Niko Bellic says:

    The content is very limited and its only available for those in Europe, specifically Switzerland and the UK. But it is direct tv but its nothing too special, Joost is more geared towards videos but it’s unimpressive because it has a lot of bugs and it doesn’t work too well with Linux. If you want videos try Joost, if you want video (limited) try Zattoo. But then again if you don’t want to download software you can try FreeTube it’s not 100% iptv but it does let you watch some of those channels on Zatto without having to install some tv player software and it can be watched inside your browser.

  5. Chelsea says:

    Signed up for the mailing list or on the waiting list. But until I get in I guess I can try out what niko suggested. It does have many of the channels on there but I’m surprised it actually works albeit a little fiddgeity. I had to download Windows Media Player 11 but after that it did work and I watched about 20 mins of a Friends episode on fox and some BBC headlines, couldn’t find france 24 but hey theres alot more on there so I guess thanks until I can get in to the beta FreeTube should do well. Thanks =)

  6. Sylvain Groulx says:

    I agree with Ben – it’s unfortunate that as we have all these free trade agreements and the Internet has diminished the barriers for communications that free television shown in Europe can’t be shown in the US and vice-versa. I have moved from Canada to Spain and miss some of the great Canadian and US television shows especially that those same shows end up on Spanish television…but dubbed…auuggghhh. And on Zattoo in Spain you get only one non-Hispanic channel!

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  8. ARGELINO says:

    how can i see the next match of brasil the 22/08 in live on on my PC.

  9. newcomer says:

    TVUPlayer from has been doing live p2p streaming for awhile. They have quite few interesting channels, which includes CBS, Nick, Comedy Channel, Spike, Cartoon Networks. FOX News….

  10. vuelo says:

    Zatto is pretty cool, now all that’s needed is some decent programmes.

  11. TROTTER says:

    Well I’ve tried it. On mine it’s pretty dismal but having said that I’m on a 1mb connection with general steaming around 375kbps. I live in dubai and was interested when I came across this. I’ve got a system at present from a UK co which allows me to watch realtime and record all \uk freeview channels and even Sky and Setanta. You have to pay for it, but I reckon its been proven many times that anything of qualitiy is going to cost. Any way if yer intersted it’s anopther alternative at go and have a look see what you think.

  12. TROTTER says:

    I meant to say I’m in the UK at present I doubt that I could log in to this from Dubai!!

  13. Ron says:

    Does anyone know of a proxy server or other work-around that will allow me to watch Zattoo outside of Europe?


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