A new live TV streaming service from ivi, Inc. lets you watch broadcast television from any computer, anywhere in the world. If you're looking to eliminate monthly cable bills, but are unable to get acceptable over-the-air signal reception in your area, ivi could be the solution.
Ivi differs from from services offered by the networks, such as Hulu, in that it provides live television as opposed to pre-recorded shows. Ivi currently offers more than 30 channels, mostly network affiliates (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox) in the New York and Seattle areas, along with PBS channels.
A subscription to ivi runs $4.99 a month plus an optional $.99 per month for "ivi TV Pro", which offers basic DVR features such as rewind, fast-forward, pause and record (coming soon). A 30-day free trial is available.
Accessing the service requires downloading a basic video player (Mac, Windows or Linux) from ivi, which also incorporates the TV guide and DVR functions. Set up was dead simple, as was using ivi's intuitive TV program guide. Features, though, are limited. For example, there is no way to search for upcoming programs.
Video quality on ivi was a mixed-bag, ranging from pretty good to unwatchable. The network and PBS channels came through the best, though nowhere near HD quality and with a fair amount of pixelation. Channels such as Sport Italia looked like someone was using an old webcam to capture the image from a 1980's TV set.
Interestingly, ivi Inc is launching without agreements in place with the networks. According to an ivi spokesperson, ivi "operates under technicalities in the copyright law" that allow ivi to calculate royalty payments themselves for retransmissions and provide payments to broadcasters.
Assuming ivi's legal position is sustainable, I would expect to see ivi, or copycat services, quickly baked into set-top boxes such as Apple TV, Roku and Boxee. At that point, when combined with a Netflix subscription and other online streaming channels, ditching cable will become a real possibility.