Livestation vs. Zattoo: First Round


Again I am having the chance and honor to be one of the first (if not the first) Swiss blog and citizen to try out a new Online TV service. This time it is Livestation (Wikipedia).

Livestation delivers a range of live radio and television channels to your computer over a broadband network.

There is no need to install a tuner, aerial, or any additional hardware. Livestation works anywhere with a basic broadband network connection. Simply download the free Livestation player to watch television wherever you are, whenever you want.

You can watch television on your desktop, or on your laptop, at home, at work, on the move, or in a hotel room, provided you have a broadband Internet connection or wireless access.

Livestation was developed by Skinkers, a London based and privately funded company.

Livestation is based on advanced peer-to-peer technology, originally developed by Microsoft Research. Skinkers acquired the full intellectual property for the technology through a pioneering technology for equity agreement, where Microsoft acquired a minority equity stake in Skinkers.

And because it is Microsoft Technology there is currently a Windows client only. The software is only about 3.4 MB big and uses around 70 MB of RAM while running. This is equal to what my current favorite Zattoo uses.

Here are some screenshots that show Livestation and Zattoo side by side.

Picture 1: The Livestation feed is a few seconds later than Zattoo.

Picture 2: Direct comparison of the quality. Livestation left, Zattoo right.

Picture 3: Switching channels, Zattoo shows advertisements. Livestation is caching and displays a program guide.

Picture 4: The known Zattoo artifacts.

Picture 6: Zattoo display size in yellow, Livestation in green.

Picture 7: Fullscreen view in Livestation.

Picture 8: Current channel selection for Swiss users.

The Good about Livestation …

  • the video is in widescreen
  • the quality is slightly better
  • no artifacts discovered so far
  • it has a nice zoom function
  • it has radio (BBC Radio 4 & BBC World Service at the moment)
  • a useful electronic program guide. You can even browse channels and change to them.

The Bad about Livestation …

  • far less channels than Zattoo has right now. But this will hopefully change over time.
  • Windows system only for now
  • no real invite system :-). Sorry, you are out of luck this time.
  • you are only allowed to install the software on 5 computers with the same user
  • even after closing the application it keeps running and consuming bandwidth.
  • no changing between languages. They offer a channel for each language though.

After a short while I think I will like Livestation as soon as they offer more channels and fix some things. Their interface is also more like my taste than is the Zattoo one. And the EPG is awesome :-).


Due to the bigger variety of channels Zattoo wins round I. But be assured I will keep an eye on Livestation and can not wait for round II.

Zattoo 1 : 0 Livestation

16 thoughts on “Livestation vs. Zattoo: First Round

  1. Zattoo vs. Livestation

    I have tested both Livestation and Zattoo. Among from the differeces outlined above, the biggest difference cleary is the streaming quality:

    Livestation simply works and does not have any of the known Zattoo artefacts, for example the pixelation and freezing that still occurs.

    PS: I don’t think this has anything to do with the number of users concurrently on the Zattoo system, because Zattoo had those from day one when there were very few people watching and because they also appear when it is almost certain that very few people watch a channel, eg. early morning or on less popular channels.

    But of course, Zattoo has a headstart. But unless they fix the quality gap, people will switch to Livestation as soon as they channel lineup is attractive.

    It was claimed elsewhere that Livestation will very soon offer larger channel lineup of 30+ channels in the UK, then quickly expand to continental Europe and the US later this year.

  2. CoCaman Post author

    Thanks for the info.

    > I don’t think this has anything to do with the number of users concurrently on the Zattoo system, because Zattoo had those from day one …
    Another problem is the problem if to many people watch the same program the player crashes or disconnects. I had that a couple of times watching Swiss TV and sport casts.

    > It was claimed elsewhere that Livestation will very soon offer larger channel lineup of 30+ channels in the UK, then quickly expand to continental Europe and the US later this year.
    I cannot find any infos about that on their website. But I am really hoping for that.

  3. Daniel Lorch

    I just tried to sign up:

    What’s next? As we are thoroughly testing the performance of our platform, we are extending the trial on an invitation only basis. We will get back to you as soon as possible with an invitation.


  4. Nicolas

    Actually it is already round TWO! Zattoo, perhaps in retaliation to the launch of a wider Livestation beta, have launched a Technical Preview version complete with a lot of interesting improvements (much awaited in fact!):
    – EPG provided by tvtv
    – fullscreen controls (access to EPG, stopping channel, sound control, but still no fullscreen channel switcher)
    – a channel manager, allowing you to show only the channels you want to have access to
    Yet there are no new video quality improvements (and the known Zattoo artifacts remain, though I have ssen some glitches in Livestation too!).
    There might also be some channels added to this new release soon 😉
    So, is it a tie break? 1-1 ?

  5. Message to Zattoo is ...

    One message to Zattoo seems pretty clear to me, namely: “Just give me BBC World and let me watch it, no matter where I am.”

    I believe that alone would make many people around the world very happy and regular Zattoo viewers. One of the best audiences one can think of. Always comes back for news updates from a high-quality source.

  6. The Livestation team

    Hi Cocaman

    Thanks for the great blog about Livestation, glad you like the EPG!

    We just wanted to let you know that it takes about 10-15 seconds after closing the Livestation window for the streaming to stop completely. From that point on bandwidth usage is the minimum required to stay in contact with the network.

    We hope you keep enjoying Livestation!

    The Livestation team.

  7. CoCaman Post author

    Hi Kate and Team

    Thank you for your response.
    > From that point on bandwidth usage is the minimum required to stay in contact with the network.
    My question is simple: For what? Is there really a need in letting the software run?


  8. The Livestation team

    Hi Corsin
    In answer to your question – we are working on a number of additional services and functions that require the client to be logged onto the peer network for them to work. There is also a significant advantage as if you want to watch something you won’t need to go through the login and reloading sequence which can sometimes take a bit of time.

    The Livestation team

  9. EPG comparison

    Will Livestation at some point offer en EPG where I can easily browse through all the shows on all channels in one window, similar to what Zattoo is offering today?

  10. jdilla

    Livestation quality from the US is horrible – I’ve never used Zattoo, but Livestation routinely craps out from the US, and eats up my bandwidth even when I’m not watching! And it takes almost 30 seconds to log in or switch channels!

    This kind of parasitic behavior seems a bit dishonest to me, and really makes me wonder what’s going on under the covers. For such a small channel lineup I can already watch over the web, it doesn’t seem worth it.

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  12. Tom

    I was going to provide my comments on my user experience with Livestation, but then I realized that the user agreement explicitly prohibits doing so publicly, so I have provided my comments to Livestation support. I look forward to hearing from them.

  13. James H.

    Are there any U.S. users, or is Livestation still not available here?
    Also, is it necessary to have the Livestation program running in the background (I’m the paranoid type), or can I shut it down completely?

Comments are closed.