Zattoo adds UK channels to live service

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Zattoo, the live TV to PC platform, has extended its channel line-up to include BBC 1 & 2, ITV 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5 via its online streaming media player. Zattoo will also carry financial news from Bloomberg, children’s programming from the BBC’s Cbeebies and special interest channels such as AutoMoto TV and The Poker Channel. Zattoo completely replicates the traditional TV viewing experience online. The UK channel launch will be followed by other planned European, US and Asian market entries throughout 2008. Content available also includes ABC News, CNBC, Al Jazeera, and a number of European channels.

The service operates strictly legitimately on the basis of agreements with broadcasters and copyright law. All the content is free and Zattoo generates revenues through advertising and subscription fees. Zattoo’s ads are five second video slots available in the buffering zone when users switch channels and it can track them if they click on a dedicated landing page for an advertiser.

In January Zattoo opened up its beta software to UK users, previously available for a closed user group since July 2007. It has about 2 million users in total, two thirds of whom use it regularly to watch TV on their PC. It aims to have 450,000 registered UK users by the end of the year. Alexandra Illes is UK country manager for Zattoo. The Zattoo player is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. Zattoo has offices in Ann Arbor, Michigan (USA), Zurich, Switzerland and London, UK.

However, although Zattoo concentrates on live streaming, it will face some competition when Project Kangaroo launches in the UK – the project from the major UK broadcasters to aggregate all their catch-up programming, though that won’t offer live streaming.

Zattoo, based in Switzerland, has caused consternation among some in the broadcasting industry who reckon channels are being ‘ripped off’ because there is no way for them to monitor the views or have the audience added to their BARB ratings, key to attracting advertisers.

However, Zattoo solves a few problems for channels. Assuming it can address audience measurement at some point, Zattoo will help broadcasters keep viewers when they travel around and leave the satellite dish behind. Plus, territorial breakdown of copyright is pretty anachronistic these days. Then again, Zatoo’s live streaming model doesn’t exactly play into Long Tail theory either, unless it can win hundreds of channel partners.

The Microsoft/Skinkers P2P live television streaming startup LiveStation will effectively compete with Zattoo when it comes out of closed beta trials. Recently it inadvertently leaked some of the TV partners: BBC News 24, Sky, Al Jazeera, France 24 and Bloomberg. Zattoo’s other competitors include Joost, Babelgum, Next.TV, and Chinese based companies Sopcast, PPLive, PPMate. In October last year Skinkers took $16 million in Series B led by Acacia Capital Partners.

LiveStation’s Silverlight-powered client is designed to stream TV channels over multiple content streams in a manner which is highly scalable and has a slightly better presentation that Zattoo’s player, although we reviewed Zattoo last year and liked it.

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