Internet television

Internet television
"Net TV" redirects here. For other uses, see Net (disambiguation).

Internet television (otherwise known as Internet TV, or Online TV) is the digital distribution of television content via the Internet. It should not be confused with Web television - short programs or videos created by a wide variety of companies and individuals, or Internet protocol television (IPTV) - an emerging internet technology standard for use by television broadcasters. Some Internet television is known as catch-up TV. Internet Television is a general term that covers the delivery of television shows and other video content over the internet, typically by major traditional television broadcasters. It does not describe a technology used to deliver content (see Internet protocol television). Internet television has become very popular through services such as RTÉ Player in Ireland; BBC iPlayer, 4oD, ITV Player (also STV Player and UTV Player) and Demand Five in the United Kingdom; Hulu in the United States; Nederland 24 in the Netherlands; ABC iview and Australia Live TV in Australia; and Tivibu in Turkey. See List of Internet television providers.



Greek internet television Tvonline created by Film Director Angelos Diamantoulakis, is the first web TV in the world. It was built in 2005.[1][2][3][4][5]


Internet television allows the users to choose the content or the television show they want to watch from an archive of content or from a channel directory. The two forms of viewing Internet television are streaming the content directly to a media player or simply downloading the media to the user's computer. With the "TV on Demand" market growing, these on-demand websites or applications are essential for major television broadcasters. For example, the BBC iPlayer brings in users which stream more than one million videos per week, with one of the BBC's headline shows The Apprentice taking over three percent to five percent of the UK's internet traffic due to people watching the first episode on the BBC iPlayer. Availability of online TV content continues to grow. As an example, in Canada as of May 2011 there were more than 600 TV shows available for free streaming, including several major titles like Survivor and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.[6]

Every night the use of on-demand television peaks at around 10 pm.[7] Most providers of the service provide several different formats and quality controls so that the service can be viewed on many different devices. Some services now offer a HD service along side their SD, streaming is the same but offers the quality of HD to the device being used, as long as it is using a HD screen. During Peak times the BBC iPlayer transmits 12 GB (gigabytes) of information per second.[8] Over the course of a month the iPlayer sends 7 PB (petabytes) of information.

Before 2006, most catch-up services used peer-to-peer (P2P) networking, in which users downloaded an application and data would be shared between the users rather than the service provider giving the now more commonly used streaming method. Now most service providers have moved away from the P2P systems and are now using the streaming media. The old P2P service was selected because the existing infrastructure could not handle the bandwidth necessary for centralized streaming distribution. Some consumers didn't like their upload bandwidth being consumed by their video player, which partially motivated the rollout of centralized streaming distribution.[9]

Market competitors

Many providers of internet-television services exist including conventional television stations that have taken advantage of the internet as a way to continue showing television shows after they have been broadcast often advertised as "on-demand" and "catch-up" services. Today, almost every major broadcaster around the world is operating an internet-television platform.[10] Examples include the BBC, which introduced the BBC iPlayer on 25 June 2008 as an extension to its "RadioPlayer" and already existing streamed video-clip content, and Channel 4 that launched 4oD ("4 on Demand") in November 2006 allowing users to watch recently shown content. Most internet-television services allow users to view content free of charge; however, some content is for a fee. Other internet-television providers include Been TVAustralia Live TV SeeSaw, ITV player, TVCatchup, Demand Five, Eurosport player, iSTATION TV and Sky Go.


Controlling content on the Internet presents a challenge for most providers; to try to ensure that a user is allowed to view content such as content with age certificates, providers use methods such as parental controls that allows restrictions to be placed upon the use and access of certificated material. The BBC iPlayer makes use of a parental control system giving parents the option to "lock" content, meaning that a password would have to be used to access it. Flagging systems can be used to warn a user that content may be certified or that it is intended for viewing post-watershed. Honor systems are also used where users are asked for their dates of birth or age to verify if they are able to view certain content.


An archive is a collection of information and media much like a library or interactive-storage facility. It is a necessity for an on-demand media service to maintain archives so that users can watch content that has already been aired on standard-broadcast television. However, these archives can vary from a few weeks to months to years, depending on the curator and the type of content.

For example, the BBC iPlayer's shows are in general available for up to seven days after their original broadcast.[11] This so called "seven-day catch-up" model seems to become an industry standard for internet-television services in many countries around the world.[12] However, some shows may only be available for shorter periods. Others, such as the BBC's Panorama, may be available for an extended period because of the shows documentary nature or its popularity.

In contrast, 4oD channel 4's on-demand service[13] offers many of its television shows that were originally aired years ago. An example of this is the comedy The IT Crowd where users can view the full series on the internet player. The same is true for other hit channel 4 comedies such as The Inbetweeners and Black Books.

Having an extensive archive, however, can bring problems along with benefits. Large archives are expensive to maintain, server farms and mass storage is needed along with ample bandwidth to transmit it all. Vast archives can be hard to catalogue and sort so that it is accessible to users.

The benefits in most cases outweigh these problems. This is because large archives bring in far more users who, in turn, watch more media, leading to a wider audience base and more advertising revenue. Large archives will also mean the user will spend more time on that website rather than a competitors, leading to starvation of demand for the competitors.

Broadcasting rights

Broadcasting rights vary from country to country and even within provinces of countries. These rights govern the distribution of copyrighted content and media and allow the sole distribution of that content at any one time.

An example of content only being aired in certain countries is BBC iPlayer. The BBC checks a user's IP address to make sure that only users located in the UK can stream content from the BBC. The BBC only allows free use of their product for users within the UK as those users have paid for a television license that funds part of the BBC. This IP address check is not foolproof as the user may be accessing the BBC website through a VPN.

Broadcasting rights can also be restricted to allowing a broadcaster rights to distribute that content for a limited time. Channel 4's online service 4oD can only stream shows created in the US by companies such as HBO for thirty days after they are aired on one of the Channel 4 group channels. This is to boost DVD sales for the companies who produce that media.

Some companies pay very large amounts for broadcasting rights with sports and US sitcoms usually fetching the highest price from UK-based broadcasters.

Profits and costs

With the exception of Internet-connectivity costs many online-television channels or sites are free. These sites maintain this free-television policy through the use of video advertising, short commercials and banner advertisements may show up before a video is played. An example of this is on the catch-up website; in place of the advertisement breaks on normal television, a short thirty-second advertisement is played. This short advertising time means that the user does not get fed up and money can be made on advertising, to allow web designers to offer quality content which would otherwise cost. This is how online television makes a profit.

Technologies used for Internet television

The Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) consortium of industry companies (such as SES Astra, Humax, Philips, and ANT Software) is currently promoting and establishing an open European standard (called HbbTV) for hybrid set-top boxes for the reception of broadcast and broadband digital television and multimedia applications with a single-user interface.[14]

Current providers of internet television use various technologies to provide a service such as peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies, VoD systems, and live streaming. BBC iPlayer makes use of the Adobe Flash Player to provide streaming-video clips and other software provided by Adobe for its download service. CNBC, Bloomberg Television and Showtime use live-streaming services from BitGravity to stream live television to paid subscribers using a standard http protocol. DRM (digital rights management) software is also incorporated into many internet-television services. Sky Go has software that is provided by Microsoft to prevent content being copied. Internet television is also cross platform, the Sky Player service has been expanded to the Xbox 360 on October 27[when?] and to Windows Media Center and then to Windows 7 PCs on November 19[when?]. The BBC iPlayer is also available through Virgin Media's on-demand service and other platforms such as FetchTV and games consoles including the Wii and the PlayStation 3. Other Internet-television platforms include mobile platforms such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, Nokia N96, Sony Ericsson C905 and many other mobile devices.[15]

Samsung TV has also announced their plans to provide streaming options including 3D Video on Demand through their Explore 3D service.[16]

Website vs. applications

The main problem with on-demand video services that are applications on desktop computers is getting users to download them and register. It is far easier for a user to simply log onto a webpage without registering than to have to spend time registering and downloading often large applications.

However, applications are more powerful in that they can manage the downloading of content far better and the content they access can usually be watched offline for thirty days after downloading.

Stream quality

Stream quality refers to the quality of the image and audio transferred from the servers of the distributor to the user's home screen.

Higher-quality video such as video in high definition (720p+) requires higher bandwidth and faster connection speeds. The generally accepted kbit/s download rate needed to stream high-definition video that has been encoded with H.264 is 3500 kbit/s, whereas standard-definition television can range from 500 to 1500 kbit/s depending on the resolution on screen.

In the UK, the BBC iPlayer deals with the largest amount of traffic yet it offers HD content along with SD content. As more people get broadband connections which can deal with streaming HD video over the internet, the BBC iPlayer has tried to keep up with demand and pace. However, as streaming HD video takes around 1.5 gb of data per hour of video it took a lot of investment by the BBC to implement this on such a large scale.[17]

For users which do not have the bandwidth to stream HD video or even high-SD video which requires 1500 kbit/s, the BBC iPlayer offers lower bitrate streams which in turn lead to lower video quality. This makes use of an adaptive bitrate stream so that if the user's bandwidth suddenly drops, iPlayer will lower its streaming rate to compensate.

This diagnostic tool offered on the BBC iPlayer site measures a user's streaming capabilities and bandwidth for free.[18]

Although competitors in the UK such as 4oD, ITV Player and Demand Five have not yet offered HD streaming, the technology to support it is fairly new and widespread HD streaming is not an impossibility. The availability of Channel 4 and Five content on YouTube is predicted to prove incredibly popular as series such as Skins, Green Wing, The X Factor and others become available in a simple, straightforward format on a website which already attracts millions of people every day.

Overview of Platforms and availability

Service Supporting company/companies Regional availability Website-based Windows application Mac application Linux application iOS[disambiguation needed ] application Android application Console application TV set application Set Top Box application
BBC iPlayer BBC UK Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes[19] Wii, PS3 Samsung, Sony Virgin Media On Demand, Freesat
Tivibu Argela TR Yes Yes Yes Yes Argela Android Player Pending None Ttnet on Demand
Sky Go Sky UK & Ireland Yes Yes Yes Yes Xbox 360
ITV Player ITV UK Yes Yes Yes Yes PS3 Virgin Media On Demand
VuNow Verismo Networks World Yes VuNow Service
ABC iview Australian Broadcasting Corporation Australia Yes iPad PS3 Samsung, Sony
4OD Channel 4 UK & Ireland Yes Yes Yes Yes PS3 Virgin Media On Demand
SeeSaw Arqiva UK Yes Yes Yes
Hulu FOX, NBC Universal, ABC,.. US Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes PS3, XBOX360 Samsung, Vizio
RTÉ Player RTÉ Ireland Yes Yes PS3
TG4 Beo TG4 Ireland/Worldwide Yes
TV3 Catch Up TV3 Ireland Yes Yes

See also


  1. ^ Greek Newspaper "Eleftherotypia"
  2. ^ Tv Show "Double Click" in Greece
  3. ^ Greek Newspaper "Eleftheros Typos"
  4. ^"
  5. ^ American chronicle"
  6. ^ 'Streaming Guide' List of Online TV Shows in Canada, 05/16/2011 'Streaming Guide' List of Online TV Shows in Canada.
  7. ^ BBC iPlayer 'risks overloading the internet', The Sunday Times, 04/10/2008 News article regarding BBC iPlayer internet traffic.
  8. ^ BBC iPlayer – Stats and Facts, 12/05/2009 Brief blog style entry on BBC iPlayer traffic per month.
  9. ^ iPlayer uncovered: What powers the BBC's epic creation?, 08/05/2009 CNet interview with iPlayer boss Anthony Rose, mostly on iPlayer 3.0
  10. ^ Internet television platforms around the world International TV Explorer
  11. ^ BBC iPlayer Help BBC iPlayer
  12. ^ International TV Explorer International Television Expert Group
  13. ^ "Channel 4's home page for channel 4 content on demand". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  14. ^ "New European Initiative Merges Television with the Power of the Internet" (Press release). HbbTV Consortium. August 27, 2009. 
  15. ^ "Info page detailing all platforms iPlayer works with". 2010-05-15. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  16. ^ [""Samsung To Do 3D VOD Streaming, May 24, 2011
  17. ^ BBC iPlayer goes HD, adds higher quality streams, releases iPlayer Desktop out of Labs, BBC Internet Blog, 20/04/2009
  18. ^ "BBC web page which runs a diagnostic of internet download speeds for streaming remotely". Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  19. ^

External links

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