An Introduction to IPTV (Internet TV)
The term Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) covers a vast array of products and services but for a simple definition, IPTV is basically any form of video or radio media format that can be streamed across the internet to you on an internet enabled device. More recently IPTV has become more recognised as a paid service, coming in the form of either a one-off payment or via subscription.
The IPTV industry is already popular in the US and Canada, but around much of the rest of the world it is still in its infancy. Recently, thanks to some big titles like Google TV, Apple TV, Fetch TV, the Telstra T-Box and a few others, the entertainment form is finally starting to spread its wings.
What is IPTV?
The key feature of services where IPTV is used in the naming of the service is the offer is based on a bundle of TV like streams from the internet in a new easy to use interface, often with a subscription element. If you were simply accessing youtube.com from your home computer for short form video clips, this is not advertised as IPTV. IPTV services are differentiated in that they are more like TV with long form video delivered by the internet.
Due to the broad definition of IPTV you’ll find that it comes in many shapes and sizes. There are three forms that will be found most commonly.
Live Stream Internet TV
Live stream IPTV is basically just regular television like national TV or cable. The only difference being that instead of being delivered digitally over the air to your antenna through traditional channels, you’re streaming it via the internet and your internet connection, either by phone line in ADSL 2+ or via cable broadband.
What’s the difference with this? Well, a lot channels and functions are available via IPTV that you won’t find on regular Digital Freeview or Pay TV and vice versa. There’s also the added bonus of easy installation. If you’re a renter, many landlords/body corporates will shy away from installing cable Pay TV, especially for just one unit in a block of units or townhouse. With IPTV, if you have a broadband connection then you already have all the infrastructure you need to get IPTV. So if you’re sick of national free to air television but can’t get cable, then IPTV is an easy and (usually) cheap solution.
IPTV usually works on a subscription basis, but tends to be cheaper than cable, depending on your internet service provider (ISP) or the IPTV service you choose. When you initiate the TV and IPTV application, the content on each channel is streamed to you via the internet. Depending on the capabilities of the IPTV box you are using, you can usually record the content when you are away from home to watch later.
Delayed Broadcast (aka Time-Shifted IPTV or Catch-Up TV) replays a film or show that was broadcast hours, or sometimes even days beforehand. IPTV providers often have a storage buffer where they will hang on to broadcasts for a certain amount of time. That means that if a customer were to miss a show they still have the option of viewing it in its entirety during this period. Once the allotted time has passed the IPTV provider will dump the episode/film to make space for more recent broadcasts.
There is also Start-Over TV which works on a similar principal. As long as a viewer tunes in during an episode or movie they will be given the option of restarting it from the beginning. This option does not last as long as the previous service, as a customer will usually not have the option of restarting a movie once the movie itself has finished.
Video On Demand (VOD)
VOD is becoming an increasingly popular way to rent and buy movies. VOD is similar to the On-Demand service provided by cable television, or even just renting a DVD. Customers browse a series of titles and decide on whichever they wish. After making a selection the stream should begin momentarily.
When renting over VOD, customers will usually be given the option of Standard Definition (SD) or High Definition (HD). VOD is a great alternative to traditional movie rental as providers can offer a larger range of films, both recent and classic, for cheaper prices. There’s also the added bonus of not leaving your couch while browsing.
When buying a movie via a VOD service the movie will download directly to your hard drive. This is usually a cheaper way of getting HD movies and it doesn’t require you to get up and change discs every time you want to switch between films. But watch out, HD movies take up a lot of hard drive space. So you’ll need a decent sized library to make it worth it.
Many VOD services also offer a subscription option. Services such as Netflix and Zune Pass (neither is available in Australia yet) ask for a monthly fee from their customers and in return offer unlimited access to their massive media libraries. If you’re a huge movie buff and love seeing new films then this option may work out to be cheaper than paying for movies individually.