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Today’s Show:

Cutting the cord with ivi.tv

Although neither of us have actually taken the plunge, we’ve talked quite often about canceling the cable or satellite bill in favor of Internet video and over the air TV. We know several of you have given it a shot, but there’s always been one big hangup. What about live TV? A new website called ivi.tv wants to fill that gap.

About ivi.tv

Between over the air television and websites like Hulu and Netflix, you can get just about any program you want to watch. If you can’t get it there, you can buy or rent it from sites like Amazon.com or services like iTunes. But what about the live stuff? Where do you go for that? We got an email from website ivi.tv earlier this week and decided to check it out.

From the press release:
ivi, Inc., today releases its revolutionary live television application enabling anyone with an Internet connection to “cut the cord” and watch live broadcast television anywhere in the world, anytime. The easy-to-use, over-the-top (OTT), online cable system, is the first traditional television experience available on the Internet.

Upon launch, ivi offers more content than Hulu and a 30 day free trial to watch major broadcast channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, The CW, PBS, and others from a growing number of local affiliates, all available via a downloadable app at ivi’s website, ivi.tv.

The site bills itself as an online cable company, so you aren’t exactly cutting the cord, but you are saving quite a bit of money. The basic service costs only $4.99 per month. You can upgrade to the premium service, called ivi Pro, for only 99 cents more per month. The Pro service give you DVR functionality, allowing you to record, rewind, fast-forward, pause, and the ability to access additional premium and PPV content for a nominal charge.

Through ivi you can currently access 26 different live TV channels, including ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and CW affiliates in New York and Seattle. They also have channels like PBS, Univision, Telemundo, and Universal Sports. It’s basically like having a SlingBox installed in New York and Seattle that you can access whenever you want.

How do they make it work?

According to the company:
ivi operates in good faith and intends to help broadcasters and cable operators realize new revenue streams by making TV more accessible to more people, anytime and anywhere. Every single broadcaster gets paid. ivi, Inc. fills out the “United States Copyright Office Statement of Account Form SA1-2″ in accordance to US Copyright Law, and that clearly calculates royalty payments for retransmissions.

An important distinction to keep in mind on the legal side is the historic EchoStar precedent. Cable and the broadcasters battled EchoStar and fought the satellite erosion of their hallowed ground. They lost that battle. As history repeats itself, they will lose this one as well, we believe.

So how good is it?

The service isn’t purely web based, you install an application on your computer to watch TV. The application runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. It’s easy enough to install and quite easy to interact with. The guide provides much of the same functionality you get from a Cable or Satellite DVR. Overall installation and usage are fairly trivial.

Quality still leaves something to be desired. Most of the content looks like the old school streaming content from days gone by. There’s lots of macroblocking and quite often audio sync issues. Although we’re sure they have high definition in New York and Seattle, we’re yet to see it in ivi.tv. Which also means we’re yet to get any 5.1 surround sound. Overall quality issues left us less than satisfied.

Lastly, perhaps the biggest drawback is that the application is purely computer based for now. In an age where Netflix is available on every consumer electronics device imaginable, we’re rapidly moving away from the need to have a computer in your family room. With that in mind, ivi.tv really needs to get off the computer and into home theater devices. They know this and claim to be working on it.

Conclusion

Although we wouldn’t give up high definition for the sub-par quality of ivi.tv just yet, we are quite intrigued by the service. Assuming they can fix the video issues and give us something akin to what we’re used to from Hulu or Netflix, the idea of paying $5 a month for TV service sounds great. Of course a set top box of some sort would need to be in the mix. They’d also need to beef up the available channels to include stuff like ESPN and Fox Sports. Monday Night Football simply isn’t optional.

Download Episode #443


Posted by The HT Guys, September 16, 2010 10:49 PM

About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.