If you are not part of the media landscape, chances are you have not heard of IPTV. But you’ve probably been using it for years.
And you are likely to use it more in the future. IPTV is growing rapidly, with new providers and services appearing alongside traditional TV providers with more IPTV offerings.
But what is IPTV? What does IPTV mean? How does it work? And how can you use it to improve your viewing experience?
IPTV stands for “Internet Protocol Television”. “IP” in IPTV is the same as your IP or VoIP (Voice over IP) address. All this means is that TV programming is communicated using Internet Protocol.
To understand what this means, you need to know a bit more about how non-IPTV works. With cable or satellite television, broadcasters send signals and viewers receive them. You can only watch what is being broadcast. Unless you have some sort of recording device, you can’t dictate what happens and when. You log in when you can and see what’s available.
IPTV is different. Instead of transmitting content via light pulses in a fiber optic cable or radio waves from a satellite, IPTV sends shows and movies through your standard internet connection. (You may be using a cable or satellite internet connection, but these are independent of the ones that typically carry your TV signals.)
Instead of delivering a range of shows on a specific schedule, most IPTVs use video on demand (VOD) or time-shifted media – we’ll discuss that, along with a third format, in a moment. .
There is a complicated network architecture behind it all to make it work, including a lot of transcoding from traditional signals to IP compatible signals. But the important thing is that you don’t have to watch what’s on the air. You can tell your provider what you want to watch and they’ll send it to you immediately.
If you’ve used a streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, it’s the same idea, but with TV instead of movies or syndicated shows.
Do you need a decoder for IPTV?
Since most televisions are not equipped for IPTV, you may need a set-top box that “translates” what you receive through your Internet connection into a format that your television can read.
Your computer, on the other hand, does not need anything to watch IPTV. Once you’ve signed up for a service, you can use it to stream whatever you want in any of the IPTV formats (which we’ll talk about next).
So if you can mirror your screen to your TV, you can watch IPTV without a set-top box.
Many TV providers are now taking a hybrid approach to IPTV to solve some of the problems associated with fully IP broadcasts. IPTV requires a lot of bandwidth to transmit a ton of data at high speed.
Hybrid IPTV combines traditional television services with those based on IP. The main selling point is that everything comes in one box. This allows TV providers to extend their offerings to their subscribers.
It also makes it easier to roll out new products and services without completely overhauling the set-top box. This is a good way to go from a traditional model to a more modern model.
How does IPTV work?
There are three different IPTV formats. We will consider each of them individually.
Video on demand (VOD)
VOD streaming is exactly what it sounds like; you get video whenever you need it. Movie streaming sites are VOD providers. There is no time limit for what you can watch (other than what the service is currently licensed for).
You tell the service what you want to watch, it sends it to you over the Internet and you watch it. Easy.
Popular examples of VOD services are Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video. (There are also many smaller niche services.)
If you’ve watched “catch-up TV” you know this type of IPTV. Many broadcast networks now allow users to watch missed shows when they have time to do so.
The important difference between time-shifted media and VOD is that shared content has a limited shelf life. You can’t go back and watch an episode of a show you missed several years ago (well, you could, but then that would be VOD).
One of the most popular services that offers time-shifted media is the BBC’s iPlayer.
(If you think VOD and time-shifted media sound very similar, you’re right. It mainly depends on how long you can watch a show after it airs.)
Just like TV broadcast, you can also watch live broadcasts on IPTV. Many people watch sporting events this way; it’s easy to stream a game to your phone while you’re on the go.
Besides being broadcast over the internet instead of through traditional TV media, live IPTV is pretty much the same as regular TV.
FOX Sports Go, CBS Sports HQ, Hulu Live TV, and Sling TV all offer live IP TV.
Although IPTV is definitely growing, it is still a niche market. Services like Netflix and Hulu have plenty of TV shows (when they can get the rights to them), and video on demand is growing rapidly.
It is the other IPTV formats, where there is significant potential to change the way people watch TV, that have yet to take off.
Catch-up television is growing in popularity. Downloading apps for providers like FOX, CBS, and NBC allows viewers to see shows they’ve missed without the effort of setting up and recording something through a set-top box like a TiVo.
NOW TV, TVPlayer, and Epicstream are all making headway in the live IPTV market, but they are still not as common as the more popular VOD services.
Sport appears to be the area of television that has adopted IPTV the fastest. There are many subscription sports packages that you can watch from your computer or stream to your TV whenever you want.
But it’s a safe bet that the rest of the television world will be right behind.
Many services are appearing and allow users to create their own VOD and live streaming services. This way, people can share their skills, advice and passions with anyone in the world (you can see how some people are using Uscreen to do this on our Examples page).
Start your own IPTV service
If you want to start your own IPTV service, your best bet is to connect with one of these providers. They have the bandwidth, server capacity, and distribution channels you need.
All you have to do is sign up, choose a plan, and start downloading your content. What sort of content? Who will watch it? How are you going to make money? It all depends on you.
There are IPTV channels for learning magic tricks, getting in shape, learning to dance, watching movies and just about anything you can think of. If you want to share something with the world, you can use IPTV to do it.
Of course, you will still need to save all this content. Which takes a lot of work. But once you have done that, these services will make it easy for you to promote and distribute your TV shows, videos or movies.
It’s like making your own version of Netflix just for you and your subscribers.
The future of IPTV
It is difficult to say how many people are currently using IPTV services. With the wide variety of providers, the different formats, and the huge amount of pirated content available, there is a lot to follow.
But there is no doubt that IPTV will gain popularity. Grand View Research estimates that the market will be worth more than $ 117 billion by 2025. Increasing user demand as well as network improvements will support this growth.
Grand View also predicts that subscription IPTV will grow rapidly over the next decade, suggesting that services like TVPlayer and Hulu Live TV will gain popularity.
Some of this growth has already started.
Major media providers are planning to offer new streaming services to compete with Netflix, Amazon Prime and other streaming heavyweights. And more traditional TV providers allow time-shifted media through their apps. Even cable companies allow their subscribers to watch from their phones.
And now that people can create their own channels to easily distribute their content, the quantity and variety of IPTV options will increase rapidly. Viewers will no longer be limited to what broadcasters share; they’ll be able to go to each other to see everything from fitness videos to audience specific movies.
In short, the future of television is IPTV.