When you think of watching TV online, sites like Hulu or YouTube spring to mind. You don't typically think of flipping through ABC, NBC and other channels like you would with an actual TV, but that's exactly what you can do with a new service called ivi, launching today.
ivi is an app: download, install (Mac, PC and Linux versions are available), and seconds later you're watching live TV via the Internet. ivi's not the first service to offer live streaming of TV channels online, but it has a standout ingredient: content. The big networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS and the CW — are the highlight of ivi's 25-channel lineup.
And now the catch: the service costs $4.99 a month, with $0.99 extra to add DVR-like abilities to schedule recordings of shows. You can try it out for 30 days for free, though, and the service boasts a big perk: no "buffering" delays. ivi says its proprietary streaming tech doesn't produce them, and in our test of the software we didn't see any, though it was easy to see why — the frame rate was obviously lower than 30 frames per second.
Other caveats: The ivi player appears to support HD, but we didn't see any material at that resolution. In fact, the less-popular channels are often in "LD" or "low definition." Hunh. ivi's available only on laptops and desktops for now, though a smartphone app is said to be in the works.
We like that ivi's breaking new ground here, though we don't know if we'd ever use the service. While having the big networks available is appreciated, does it make sense to spend five bucks a month to watch TV on a computer monitor instead of that big-screen HDTV in the next room, where you can sit in a more comfortable chair? For most, it's doubtful.