ivi TV Review - Live Streaming TV Through the Internet

Seattle-based Ivi, recently unveiled a new online service which allows Internet users to watch live television broadcasts anywhere in the world.

The basics are very simple. You can 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.
Apparently Ivi does this by either placing a physical encoder device at a station or capturing it from satellite or antennae. They then stream those channels via their TV player program to your computer.

In some reviews of their news release people are talking about how it will be disruptive to other services or it won't last because of lawsuits but it appears that folks at Ivi are pretty certain that legal issues won't be a problem. We won't get into the legal aspects of their service in this article but if they can provide a polished product for streaming Live TV at a reasonable price this could change a lot of people's viewing habits.

How does their service work and where can I get it?

You can sign up and download ivi TV player program at ivi.tv. They offer a free 30 day trial of the service and then afterwards it starts at $4.99 per month for the basic service. They have a player for the Mac, Windows and Linux. They do mention that they have porting underway for mobile phones, PDAs, gaming consoles, television sets, and set-top-boxes but no specific release dates are mentioned. After you have set up your free trial you can then download the player program for your computer. We use Windows and the first thing we noticed is that the download is only 1.5MB and player program is around 7 MB. The download and install was quick and easy. We had it downloaded, installed and were watching TV in under 5 minutes. The service also appears to be a month-to-month agreement so you can cancel at anytime.

Startup and streaming

When you start the player program you see a quick splash screen while it loads and it immediately starts streaming the last channel you were watching.

The controls and settings are very easy to manipulate.

Changing Channels and using the guide.

You can simply change the channel up or down if you wish but their built-in guide makes it very easy to jump around and see what is on.

You just click on the "Guide" icon and it brings up your available channels for your time zone.

  • You can see what you are watching and it's description in the lower frame or turn that off so you see more of the guide.
  • Click on any show and you will see the particular information for that show.
  • Double clicking on any show changes your channel to it.
  • The green line you see running down the middle is your actual time so you can see where you are at in regards to when a show starts or stops.

Right now none of the other options, Favorites, Pay per View, on demand, etc at the top of the guide function. If you click on them you are shown that the feature is 'Coming soon'  

The Player Settings

The player settings are easy to understand and change.

You can set where the spooled file is saved for rewinding, the program startup mode, check for updates and to show tooltips or not. It's a very straight forward and we thought very simple to understand.

What you don't see is a steaming quality setting just a start quality. They say "ivi TV has an embedded algorithm that auto-adjusts its image quality to give you smooth performance based on your Internet connection speed. Faster Internet connections will provide higher resolution images. ivi TV will adjust the image quality when the connection is slow to ensure smooth performance and good sound quality." So there is no need to have you adjust or play with the quality settings your self.

Stream Type

Taking a quick look at the spool file, here is what we see for an "LD" spooled stream:


Format: OGG
File size: 2.99
MiB Writing application: Lavc52.66.0


ID : 0 (0x0)
Format : Theora
Bit rate : 320 Kbps
Width : 426 pixels
Height : 240 pixels
Display aspect ratio : 16:9
Frame rate : 12.000 fps
Bits/(Pixel*Frame) : 0.261
Writing library : Xiph.Org libtheora 1.1 20090822 (Thusnelda)
ID: 1 (0x1)
Format : Vorbis
Format settings, Floor : 1
Bit rate : 64.0 Kbps
Channel(s): 2 channels
Sampling rate: 44.1 KHz
Writing library : libVorbis (Everywhere) (20100325 (Everywhere))



Our first impression was that this was easy to set up and get running and easy to understand the layout and the settings of the program
During our testing we mostly received the "LD" or low definition stream but did occasionally get bumped up to "SD" standard definition.

We never did get into the "ED" Enhanced Definition or "HD" high-definition category.
We haven't seen anything published as to what download speeds are required for the HD streams so can't say what that may actually take to achieve.

You can see the video quality for the low definition stream shown in the pictures above.

The "LD" resolution is barely watchable but the "SD" resolution wasn't too bad and after a bit you get used to it but it should be easier to get better video than what is currently supported.

Here are a couple of pictures of the "SD" stream.

Ivi will need to improve the ability to achieve better resolutions but this may also be tied to their usage of P2P technology to distribute its live streams. But we have seen mentioned that they are also using a number of servers for seeding.

Which brings us to this:

In their EULA, "End User License Agreement" it states:

Permission from You for ivi, Inc. to Use Your Computer and Bandwidth to Enable the Peer-to-Peer Viewing of Video on the Site and to Manage the Network of Computers Running ivi tv As consideration for using ivi tv, you agree and understand that:

  1. ivi tv will utilize the processor, bandwidth and hard drive (or other memory or storage hardware) and/or cache of your computer (or other applicable device) for the limited purpose of facilitating the communication between, and the transmittal of data, content, programming, services or features to, you and other Service users, and to facilitate the operation of the network of computers running instances of the Service.
  2. ivi will take organizational and technical measures intended to protect the privacy and integrity of the computer resources (or other applicable device) you are utilizing, however, you acknowledge and agree that this is not a representation or warranty of ivi.

They don't offer much more information than the above regarding the P2P setup and how it works.

This may scare off quite a few people off unless they give out more information on how it works, when it runs and what it requires in the form of bandwidth with great detail.

All-in-all this could, in time, get to be a replacement for your cable company but they do need to improve the video quality and reassure customers that the Peer-to-Peer programing and any legalities involved in the service are not a thing they should be concerned with.


Connect With Techlore