Zattoo Divides Broadcasters; Live Internet TV The New Wild West?

Some in the TV biz seem at odds as new TV-over-the-internet applications begin to re-broadcast their live channels around the world. A Brand Republic story yesterday suggested UK broadcasters are taking legal advice over Zattoo, a Swiss-based app that re-airs six BBC channels, Channel 4 and Five across eight European countries.

Channel 4: A C4 spokesperson told paidContent:UK: “We are are obviously concerned about any new platforms, online or otherwise, that use Channel 4 content without any agreements in place. We don’t have any formal arrangements with Zattoo.”

BBC: But the BBC appears a little more relaxed, telling us: “We have not entered into any formal licence arrangements with Zattoo to re-distribute BBC channels. However, we are currently reviewing our linear syndication policy following a number of trials around internet re-distribution of linear TV broadcasts”. The suggestion is, Auntie’s chilled about the prospect having participated in Livestation‘s recent trial.

Zattoo: UK country manager Alexandra Iles told us: “We do have contracts where we need a contract. Copright law in the UK provides certain provisions for allowing the public service channels to be as widely redistributed as possible.” That could be a loophole that allows online services to flourish. “We spend a lot of time clearing the rights in every country. We talk to all stakeholders, broadcasters and collecting societies. We have been negotiating with them since the beginning of 2007.” Indeed, the BBC told us Brand Republic’s story was “incorrect”.

But is Channel 4 – which only yesterday lamented its falling audience share for pulling in fewer advertisers – getting its knickers in a twist? And couldn’t platforms like Zattoo and Livestation give channels more eyeballs whilst removing the bandwidth burden?

Whilst such services might multiply viewers for ads and programmes greatly (Zattoo has 2.1 million viewers), their audience figures are not formally audited by the likes of BARB so, in advertiser terms, are essentially worthless. Iles mainted: “We give our broadcast partners very detailed figures about usage. We know exactly what time someone switches away, we can tell them the exact reach.”

Zattoo, however is to start offering its own ads in the buffering part of a live stream, so there is the possibility of an emerging conflict over who gets to keep the ad cash. And the BBC in particular, despite its more relaxed outlook, may get nervous about ads being imposed on its output.