Live news channels on your Mac or PC for free: Livestation and Zattoo reviewed

Long have I been a news junkie and just as long have I yearned for a finer selection of news channels than I possess. Fine if you have satellite, limited if you don’t. Now, happily, it is possible to tune in to many leading TV news stations (and a few others) without it costing a penny in subscription.

Livestation is a fantastic application for Mac or PC which allows you to stream a number of TV channels to your PC. The quality in most cases isn’t bad. It’s not as good as broadcast TV, as you do get some pixelation when the screen is moving quickly, however on the whole its perfectly watchable. If you’re a lover of European or world news as am I, you’ll be similarly thrilled at the prospect of watching Euronews, DW-TV, France 24, Al Jazeera, and there’s even an ITN channel I never knew existed. All looking very fine in full screen on my laptop, and I reckon not bad when connected to the TV, although I’ve still to try this out.

Essentially you receive the main news channels you’d get if you had Sky, although I suspect many of these are also available with Freesat. Either way, now they’re available without the added house hardware of a dish and a decoder.

The channels I’ve mentioned so far are just a few of the ones listed when you fire up the application. However users have added far more, which include a great range of world TV and radio stations. Oddly CNN is a user added station rather than officially being included, however it’s there. Canada’s CBC offers on-demand news options in addition to the odd Canadian stream, and there even seems to be BBC World News TV on there, which is probably the only way of seeing this within the UK, oddly.

If you speak, or are trying to learn a European language, there’s plenty of scope too. I’ve already found German language channels NDR and 3sat, the latter being one of my favourites from my time living in Germany, as it combines programming from Switzerland, Austria and Germany. I hadn’t found a working link for this station in some time so it’s an exciting find. Alas there’s no Arte, the Franco-German cultural channel but you can’t have everything.

The only problem I’ve found is that as some streams are user added, the streams are out of date and no longer work. I’m holding out for a working Bahn TV stream to complete my wish list, as the three links listed for this so far don’t work.

Thanks to Tech Radar’s 12 money saving Mac apps feature for bringing Livestation to my attention. However once you’ve found one, other similar products suddenly become easier to track down too, in part I suppose as you know such a wonderful thing can exist. Now I have to show favouratism towards Livestation as judging by a video on their website it’s a fine European effort with aspirations of bringing the live TV streams to iPhone which would be supremely excellent if Apple (and in the UK 02 furthermore) will agree to it.

A similar product but offering a distinctly different offering is Zattoo. Again it’s a streaming TV service, however here streams are strictly defined and limited by country. The benefit is that the main UK channels are available to watch, presumably just in the UK, including BBC1-4, BBC News and Parliament, ITV, Channel 4 and Five plus a few others. The main European content partners are also there, so DW-TV, Russia Today, France 24, Al Jazeera as with Livestation, however there are some other channels of potential interest, such as AutoMotoTV, Bloomberg, and various European channels I’ve still to explore. One particular distinction with Zattoo’s offering is that it is advertising supported, with a flash-style animation appearing for a few moments before each video stream starts.

Now given that I can watch all of the UK channels live on my TV anyway, I suspect Livestation with see more of my use, and it will also prove the favourite thanks to its lack of ads. I’m nevertheless blown away that these services are out there, and seemingly have been available for some time. Let them be secret no more. Rejoice!

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