What is Internet TV?
So what is Internet television, how does it work and how do you watch it? When looking at tv signals, they can come from a variety of sources before they are processed into a form that is watchable by you, the viewer.
Types of TV Signal
It is worth looking at the types of tv signal that are beamed into our homes to better understand how internet tv works. The most well known are analog and digital (which includes HD (high definition) broadcasting signals.
Analog - Analog tv has been around the longest and is now being phased out. Also known as over the air broadcasting using an antenna to receive signals. You do not require any other hardware, just a tv and an antenna or aerial.
Digital - Digital television which is also known as DTV lets the broadcast companies send out many signals using a single cable. The benefits include more channels, better quality picture and HD quality. They are also less prone to interference and have interactive electronic program guides (epg), and video on demand. To watch digital tv requires either a set-top box or a digital enabled tv set. All new tv sets will have a digital convertyor built in. To receive digital will require an antenna plugged in or a cable or satellite TV box.
Internet - So is internet tv digital tv? Well yes they both use the same principal except an internet tv stream is usually accessed via a pc,mobile phone or tablet. But to confuse things a little further, the new range of connected televisions can also view these internet tv streams in many cases.
The tv you can watch on your pc varies in quality and choice, from very old streams about obscure subjects to the latest tv episodes on catch up. The streams that are available generally comprises a selection of usually pre recorded shows or live news streams that are selectable by the user, using either country or category as a search term. Internet tv encapsulates many forms of online streams including iptv, catch up tv, video on demand and p2p streaming, illegal hosted streams and bittorrents, however the difference is that internet tv is free to watch wherever you are worldwide.
IPTV is usually offered as a paid service by cable and telephone companies and requiring a set top box connected to your television.
Catch up TV - Most of the major network companies offer a catchup tv service. In effect, you can watch any of the previous 7 days televised shows anytime you wish by logging onto their website and possibly downloading a tv player application. The disadvantage of this service is that the service is geo targetted (You can only watch BBC catch up tv if you reside in the UK and only watch Fox shows if you are a resident of the USA). The websites check your IP address when you load the site and either allow or disallow you to view based on your location.
Video on demand or VOD - This generally refers to paid for services and usually applies to movies. Netflix, iTunes and Amazon are just a few of the companies that offer this service. Just login to the site, pay a fee and get to watch the movie or tv show on your pc, tv or even mobile device..
P2P Streaming - Watching streams from a network of users. You need to download a software application to view and the speed of the stream depends on the number of suppliers of the stream against the number of viewers. Generally used to view pirated and or unauthorised content without the permission of the owner.
Illegal Hosted streams - There are a number of streams available on many websites, usually the latest movies or TV episodes and these are always illegally broadcast. The streams are hosted in other countries such as China to circumnavigate any prosecutions. However the websites that link to them are occasionally shut down. An example is the website TVlinks.co.uk which was shut down in a high profile case recently. The illegality of just linking to these streams is however in question and no real prosecutions of note have ever been completed. The other downside to these streams is that sites linking to them are usually full of popup ads and adware installs that can then infect your PC.
Bittorrents - Similar to P2P downloading. Using bittorrents involves downloading the whole movie or TV show stream to your PC harddrive for watching at your leisure. Again the streams are generally not authorised, the streams quality is usually questionable and the downloading can take several hours to complete.
Internet TV facts
Internet TV streams run continously or during a set period of hours daily. Users with the correct media player can request to view a live feed and start viewing the internet tv stream. This method of free tv has been in use for years along with and accepted by traditional TV broadcasting. So anyone wanting to watch TV and having a fast enough broadband setup can watch free internet tv from anywhere in the world.
There are lots of Internet television portals/websites available online, all having media viewers built into the site.There is a downside to all this free content though, Firstly it is supported by advertising and because there is no cost, you will not be watching any premium content or latest hit tv shows anytime soon.
The interesting thing about internet tv is that anyone can create their own TV station. So the variety (but maybe not the quality) will grow and grow. Free citizen media TV has been widely shown across the world by both local and independent television channels targeting a niche audience.
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