LiberTV is a local client software that can download or stream films, videos, and podcasts from online sources. It promises quality “high definition” videos updated daily that you can browse through by category using a well designed user interface.

I am going to use a question/answer format for this review:

Q: What is this program about? Is it another one of those ’streaming TV’ programs that promise access to hundreds of TV stations from all around the world?
A: This program seems to be a sort of video uploading/downloading service similar to YouTube, but one that uses a local client. LiberTV can stream content from online TV stations if you provide the URLs (which you can easily do with your browser). Its main function is giving access to its own library of videos and films. It is similar to the Democracy Player, but is also different in many ways.

Q: Why would I use this instead of YouTube?
A: There are 2 reasons that I can think of: The first is that, unlike your standard YouTube video, the quality of the videos on LiberTV is quite high. The second reason is the nature of content that is on offer; I got the sense that there was some careful selection involved in the repertoire of videos available. Click here, here and here for examples of some of the films that are on offer, just to get an idea of the kinds of films you can find.

Q: Where does the content come from? Is it legal?
A: My guess is that it is not legal. LiberTV apparently allows users to create an account and upload content. To quote their website “LiberTV Player aggregates it’s content from various online sources, user uploads and podcasts”. When you do upload you also have to provide substantial information on the video you are uploading. The main question I wonder about is how they guarantee the promised high video quality if everyone is uploading random content. Do they have some sort of screening process, perhaps? I’m not sure what the process may be but I will say that the content submission feels like its deliberate and centralized.

Q: If I am going to be downloading/viewing copyrighted content anyway, why not use a torrent client or some other P2P service in order to get the titles I am looking for?
A: For the same reasons above as to why you might use this over YouTube. With LiberTV you know pretty much what it is you are downloading and the quality of the video. I will also add that, unlike torrent, LiberTV provides a nice ’browsing’ experience where you can browse and learn about new content that you might find interesting. It also provides a lot of information on every title, as well as user comments and ratings, although these seem to be few and far between at the moment.

Q: How user friendly is this? Is it well designed?
A: LiberTV is a good looking program and the user interface is really good. The main ’channel guide’ section is very well laid out and offers filters and tags. There is a search functionality which works extremely well. There is a lot of information on every video you will find, including IMDB links in many instances. The content is categories into intuitive ’channels’, which include ’Movie Trailers’, ’Documentaries’, ’News’, ’Movies’, ’Comedy’, ’Animation’, ’Music’, as well as 4 or 5 others.

Q: How does it compare to Democracy?
A: While I haven’t used Democracy extensively, I can list some differences. The most important is LiberTV’s focus on high quality “high definition” videos, which I do not believe is necessarily a focus for Democracy. Democracy has much more content but you do get the impression that LiberTV manages to do more with less (you get the sense that there is much less random content on LiberTV, which could be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on your perspective). I would say that LiberTV somehow manages to provide a more enjoyable browsing experience. Unlike Democracy, it does not connect to YouTube and cannot be used as a torrent download client. Oh, I also think they did a good job finding a name that stands up to Democracy’s winsome title.

Q: How stable is this and what kind of technology does it employ?
A: Although still in beta, I found it to be remarkably stable and reliable. Some minor issues still remain, as when it displays a “you are not connectible” message even when I am obviously able to browse, download, and view content. Some videos would not stream even when they would download locally. I found a forum posting somewhere that stated that LiberTV uses the torrent file transfer protocol. It seems to use its own internal codecs for playback.

One thing I do want to say is, given that LiberTV minimizes to the system tray when you exit (presumably to finish all those downloading jobs that you asked for in the background), it wasn’t clear to me if it is also constantly using my computer and internet connection as a P2P node all the time. Whatever the situation is, they really need to proactively make it very clear. In the meanwhile I will simply exit from the system tray whenever I am not actively using the program.

Q: Can you play the downloaded video files separately using another media player?
A: I think for most downloads you can, although there were some that were in a format that I hadn’t seen before and was not able to play independently.

Q: Do you recommend this software?
A: Yes, for a number of reasons. I really like the selection and range of available videos. Browsing videos with LiberTV is a very pleasant, satisfying experience, and you really get a sense that its possible to find good content that is high quality. One of the most valuable things that this program offers is lengthy descriptions for most of the titles available, and I really hope that they are able to maintain that as the platform grows bigger and more people start adding content. If they are doing behind the scene editorializing to keep up the level of the content, it is working. If this platform is able to maintain the sense of ’quality rather than quantity’ it will definitely be successful. Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Version tested: beta

Compatibility: WinXp (no info on Vista); 500mhz processor, 128megs RAM, broadband internet connection

Update: this program is no longer being developed, and the program page is gone. However, you can download the last version we have here.