Ever since broadband connections to the Internet became available, the World Wide Web has become increasingly media-oriented, with a growing emphasis on video content. Whereas Internet video started out as a small aspect of the online experience, today, some of the largest websites on the Internet are video-sharing platforms.
Using the Internet to provide service to television and movie watchers is an even newer concept. Nevertheless, it appears to be on its way to replacing cable television as the methodology of choice for the distribution of video programming. Internet TV and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) are the two methods used for distributing professional video content over the Internet.
While both Internet TV and IPTV use the same technology and the same equipment to distribute video content, they are quite different systems. In many ways, the two systems are opposites, designed with different intents in mind.
Internet TV follows the standard model of the Internet, wherein any content can be published by any platform. While distributors and users may be required to pay some sort of licensing fee, there is no exclusivity in the open exchange of information that is the Internet. In contrast, IPTV keeps content tightly controlled, and is run by a small group of companies that benefit commercially from allowing viewers to see their content. This exclusivity is a large part of what IPTV is based on.
Internet television is television that is broadcast over the Internet. It is not the same as Web TV, which is user-generated content. It is professionally created content, distributed through the Internet. While professionally produced, much of the content comes from smaller production companies, rather than from the major Hollywood studios.
Anyone can receive Internet TV, often without a charge. It is intended as a free means of distribution and is open to all. As such, it is available to any desktop or laptop computer that is connected to the Internet. Many of today’s televisions can also access Internet TV, as they have Ethernet connectors that can be tied into a home’s local area network.
Internet Protocol Television
IPTV provides a system for major distributors of video content to use the Internet as a platform to distribute their services. As such, it requires distribution over networks which are owned by the distributor, much as cable television does. A decoder box is normally required by the television in order to control access to the content that is being distributed. A service charge for this service is typical.
Internet Protocol Television is seen by the established media as the next generation of media distribution. This will ultimately replace traditional broadcast and cable television with a newer system that is Internet based, but privately held.
Normally, IPTV service is bundled with other services, such as broadband Internet access, for sale to the consumer. This system provides control to the distributor so that they can capitalize on marketing their services and the products they offer to their customers.
Differences Between Internet TV and IPTV
To understand the difference between these two distribution systems, it is best to compare them side by side, rather than to talk about one and then the other. In this way, the differences between the two systems stand out more clearly.
Since Internet TV is based on the Internet, it is available wherever there is a broadband Internet connection. Due to the amount of information being transmitted, it cannot be used over a dial-up connection.
IPTV can only be run over networks that are wholly owned by telecom operators. Therefore, it is only available where these companies have installed networks. Only the company’s subscribers have access to the programming passed over the network.
Internet TV follows the general philosophy of the Internet, which is that content should be available free to all. Although some companies that provide Internet TV do have a subscription charge for premium service, they usually also offer a certain portion of their content for free.
IPTV requires a signed contract with the service provider and a decoder box to provide access to programming. The contract only provides for service in one location, the user’s home or office. When off site, the user has no access to the system.
Since Internet TV is propagated through the Internet, it is dependent on the quality of all connections that the information passes through. Like all other content passed through the Internet, a certain percentage of "packets" are lost in transit. This can cause delays and skips in the presentation of the video. There is no guarantee of video quality with Internet TV.
By running over the provider’s own networks, companies that provide IPTV service are able to guarantee high-quality service. Not only are their networks designed for handling large quantities of video content, but their networks are also dedicated to providing service to their customers. There is no competition with other companies for bandwidth nor interruptions caused by moving other data over the network.
Originally, much of the content over Internet TV was user generated. However, today, this user-generated content is referred to as "Web TV." This leaves the name "Internet TV" for traditional television that is accessed via the Internet. The service available through Internet TV today is similar to that of broadcast TV.
Since IPTV has always been controlled by the companies that offer the service, it has always been used to provide broadcast television content and movies. Normally, this is the same content that established media companies are broadcasting.
Charges to the User
A significant portion of the content that is provided through Internet TV is totally free of charge. Many companies provide a "premium" paid subscription service, offering additional content (usually new content that the company has to pay a premium to offer).
IPTV, on the other hand, charges the consumer for everything they use. This is typically done through a monthly service contract.
Challenges Facing IPTV Companies
While IPTV is an excellent medium for Hollywood and the established medium companies, it is not without challenges and problems. The biggest challenge they face is the ability to find available content to fill "broadcast time." The current system of licensing is based on that for broadcast television, wherein companies buy the rights to broadcast a particular program in their market.
However, the market for IPTV is broader than for a local cable company or a broadcast TV station. This creates conflict, as companies that have already purchased licensing rights for a particular program or movie do not want competition in their area of operations.
This system of exclusive licensing typically lasts for eight or nine years after a new program or movie is produced. While the license may change hands during that time, it will only be in the hands of one company at a time during those years. After that, licensing is opened up to general broadcasting rights. Once that happens, the license to broadcast a program is no longer exclusive.
To compete in the marketplace, IPTV companies need to be able to use programs that are current, not only those that are almost a decade old. To be able to do this, the current paradigm needs to be broken and a new system created. While the IPTV companies want to do that, the traditional broadcast companies are reluctant to give up any ground.
Buying IPTV Devices on eBay
Using Internet TV does not require any special devices other than a computer or an Internet-compatible television. However, as already mentioned, IPTV requires special decoder boxes, much as cable television does. These devices can be found on eBay. The sellers of these devices do not list them all in the same area, so the easiest way to find them is to do a search for "IPTV." Some of the returned listings will be under Consumer Electronics, and some will be under Computers, Tablets & Networking.
While Internet TV and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) are both systems for delivering television programs and movies to the consumer through the Internet, they are very different systems. The difference is more a difference in core philosophy than anything else. Internet TV follows the general freedom of information flow that the whole of the Internet is based on. While companies can commercialize on this, there is no exclusivity of programming, blocking other companies from providing the same content.
On the other hand, IPTV keeps media companies in control of content distribution, maximizing their ability to commercialize their products. It is this philosophy which makes IPTV a perfect platform for Hollywood. The struggle that exists for IPTV is in finding a way to integrate their services with already existing licensing conventions and requirements currently in place in the media market.
The question of which type of system will flourish comes down to which system the marketplace will accept more widely. To date, both of these systems are in use, each providing programming to a different customer base. It is expected that the competition between them will continue until the market firmly backs one or the other. How long that will take is anyone’s guess.