Zattoo puts live TV on the desktop

A bit puzzling, this. Zattoo is a free live streaming TV service which, like so many, has its own client (Mac, Linux, XP and Vista) and does peer-to-peerage.

A bit puzzling, this. Zattoo is a free live streaming TV service which, like so many, has its own client (Mac, Linux, XP and Vista) and does peer-to-peerage. Unlike the rest, Zattoo comes with all of the BBC's terrestrial and digital channels, ITV (local and regional), Channel 4, Five, and a bunch of other stuff you normally only find when flicking around on a dull weekend.

It works, too - I know I shouldn't be surprised when something like this just loads and runs under Ubuntu, but it did and I was. Registration is pretty light, the service (which has a million users worldwide and runs in quite a few countries) does IP localisation to make sure you can't be very naughty and watch what you shouldn't (although rumour has it that it's not the smartest suit in the tailor's when it comes to spotting proxies).

Video and audio quality is fine (a pal spotted that the feed was coming off-air from a Humax PVR), and it takes around 7-800 kbps in bandwidth. And it is really peer-to-peer; watching Netmeter, I could spot other people popping on and taking streams from me - and when I started up another client on another computer on the same network (you need two accounts for this, but it's easy to multiply regsiter), it reliably found and fed from the first computer, when that computer was watching the same channel. Haven't looked into the client in too much depth yet - it seems to be using the FAAD audio decoder and FFmpeg for video, both LGPL - but it works fine. And there's an EPG, just not terribly well populated.

So far, so good. Where's the catch?

That's where I get confused. I can't see one for users, although I can for the company itself. For a start, I don't know how they've got around the various rights issues that are keeping other people from running video streams of UK terrestrial stations. But I'm watching snooker in another window as I type this, so something's working (even if it's not me).

And the other question is: how on earth are they going to make money at this? It's P2P, which keeps the costs down, but it doesn't really matter how low the costs are if there's no income.

I'm sure they've got all that covered, though. Meanwhile, grab a copy of the software and give it a go.