by Rene Ritchie, Daniel Rubino, Kevin Michaluk, Phil Nickinson
ITPV - internet protocol television - is an alternative or perhaps augmentative technology used to deliver traditional television and video formats over the internet instead of broadcast, cable, or satellite. It’s been batted around since the mid 2000’s and while its promise has always been down the road, in 2013 it still looks to be a niche service.
The promise behind IPTV is relatively simple: move your television over to a web connection and you can have greater flexibility in how you watch TV. Right now a cable television signal runs at around 3-5Mbps per channel - there's tremendous bandwidth in our networks that's being taken up by television signals. Moving TV over to IP can free up a massive amount of bandwidth, leading to greater bandwidth for everybody, plus flexibility in how you allocate all those Mbps. Want to record five shows at once and have slow internet for an hour? Cool, IPTV can do that.
IPTV also allows for great interactivity, from basic program guides to overlaying web content on video feeds. Whether or not that's something that people actually want is up for debate, but it's something cable companies are pursuing, even if in a limited hybrid fashion.
For most of the developed world IPTV might as well not exist.
Does it have a future? Perhaps. For most of the developed world IPTV might as well not exist, at least as a form of comprehensive television delivery. There are plenty of web-based on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and the like, but actual IPTV? It's taking hold in Eastern Europe and emerging markets like Asia. The country with the greatest lead in IPTV? France, where as of 2012 more than 1/4 of homes received their television via IP.
Interestingly, since much of the global tech media is driven by Western interests, IPTV will remain under the radar for the foreseeable future - even if it's the kind of stuff that Western tech media loves to salivate over. Old-style telecoms and cable providers have much power to leverage against any emerging IP-based competitor, even though these same industries may leverage IPTV with their own hybrid systems for an improved user experience.
But due to its low cost infrastructure and in turn, low cost subscription rates, IPTV will continue to fuel media expansion in emerging markets. It’s just that a lot of us won’t notice.