Traditional broadcasting has a huge advantage compared to internet streaming. The fact that you don’t have to care about how many people turn on their TV sets. When they start broadcasting the superbowl or popular content like the eurovision song contest in Europe more than 100 million people turn on and look at it. And still it’s no problem. That doesn’t overload the broadcasting systems.
With regular internet streaming that’s a problem. The load on your servers will increase with the amount of people tuning in to watch the stream. That system is completely useless if you want to serve 100 million people. That’s why the network operators are working on a system called multicast. A system that will allow more broadcast like streaming. Problem is that you need to replace a lot of hardware in the network to enable multicast. The transition to a multicast enabeled network takes time.
Acually, too much time. At least for the clever programmers out there that want high quality streaming now! They want a system that won’t break the server if it gets popular.
And it’s here already. It has been here for a while. Welcome peer-to-peer streaming. Simplified: Napster, Kazaa, BitTorrent and eMule, but for streaming instead of download. A system that gets stronger and gives you better quality as more and more people tune in. The more popular a stream is, the better it will be.
The most user friendly right now
As mentioned, it has been here for a while. But it has only been available for quite advanced users. For the last couple of months I have been playing around with a solution that is pretty user friendly and straight forward. Time to write something about it. TVUPlayer is an application that will give you a long list of TV channels that you can watch on your computer, or media center. It’s not 100% remote control friendly yet, and I haven’t seen a Windows Media Center Edition plugin but I guess it’s just a question of time before you’ll see frontends for peer-to-peer streaming in the different media center solutions out there. Here you can read a full review of TVUPlayer: TVUPlayer Review | Get potentially any TV Channel over the internet for free
And because TVUPlayer works so well I decided to install it on my Media Center Box and have a look at it on my 37 inch LCD. It is not at all as good as a proper digital broadcast, but not too bad. Absolutely an alternative if I want to reach some channels that my cable provider lack or a specific event that I want to follow but don’t want to pay for months of some kind of package.
To illustrate I fired up my Canon S2 IS and shot a quick video. You can watch it here, or download the WMV version. As you can see in the video, changing channels is not like zapping. It’s like waiting for 15 – 30 seconds…
A couple of others
Another software that also is pretty user friendly and completely free is TVAnts. Mostly sports and mostly chinese. In general, this scene is dominated by sports and that seems reasonable. Sports is content that is best when it is enjoyed live. Personally I don’t care about sports, so I find TVUPlayer more interesting.
And if you find this interesting you should check out PPLive, PPStream, Sopcast, PPMate, Feidan and TvKoo as well. Here is a great page with download links and descriptions: Streamingstar. Over at AsiaPlate they have some good tutorials for setting up PPLive, PPStream, TVant, Sopcast, PCast, MySee, TVU and TvKoo.
The professional solutions
There are several companies that specialize in solutions to help content producers make peer-to-peer enhanced live streams. If you want to know more you can check out Octoshape, RawFlow and Abacast and Onion Networks.
Other interesting projects
Cybersky-IPTV is a product that was stopped, but are now back again. I haven’t had success when trying it, but it is under development and especially interesting because they cooperate with a media center solution called TVOON Media center. And, if you want to start broadcasting a peer-to-peer stream yourself Cybersky could be a good place to start. More on Cybersky: Peer-to-Peer Internet Television: Cybersky-TV
And of course I have to mention the venice project. The guys behind KaaZaa and Skype are working on a peer-to-peer streaming solution…
And because 25% of my readers are Norwegian you might be interested in TvNoo. It only supports Internet Explorer and you might need to download a small file and upgrade your windows media player.
Download of content
Subscribing and downloading of content is also evolving. Still better quality and no dropped frames because of network trouble. And for high definition content download is still the way to go. Check out Democracy Player and Videora. And of course the traditional BitTorrent clients. Azureus and BitComet are two good ones.
Thanks to Lars FrelsÃ¸y for valuable advice and huge amounts of info for this article!