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IPTV, OTT, and VoD: introduction

IPTV, OTT, multiscreen, and video-on-demand, types of content, and why it has to be protected.

Author of the material

Hennadii Mitrov

Content manager, editor, and author with the BROADVISION magazine.

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An operator’s
vlog

IPTV, OTT, and VoD are not just abstract abbreviations,
they are the fundamentals of the video business. An operator with 5000 subscribers shares their own experience.

What is IPTV?

IPTV is a means of delivering content over a local network.

Network coverage like this is normally achieved by using several computers in one room to broadcast to thousands of devices in several blocks. The infrastructure of IPTV services is separate from publicly accessible Internet. The content is only available to users of this local network.

The operator controls all the devices in an IPTV network. For example, they can send text messages to subscribers, and remotely reboot, block, or update set-top boxes. The infrastructure is completely under the operator’s control, and this ensures the quality of content delivery to each subscriber.

An IPTV service and a client’s device communicate with each other to a certain extent: for example, the user sends a request to the IPTV service to watch a video, and only once that is done, do they receive it from the IPTV service. Cable and satellite operators, on the other hand, almost always provide one-way communication with clients, which means that the viewer can only watch what is broadcast.

What is OTT?

OTT services are available wherever there is an Internet.

ОТТ services—abbreviated from Over The Top—also deliver content over the Internet. Their main difference from IPTV is that they are available on any network. Users can watch content not only at home but also on the road, on a visit to friends, or when traveling—anywhere there is the Internet. This is how YouTube, Netflix, MEGOGO, and other streaming services work.

The operator uses someone else’s networks, which is why it cannot guarantee a stable connection with the subscriber. But it does not need to build its infrastructure and lay cables to each subscriber individually. Such a service can be provided all over the world.

OTT services can be paid, free, and conditional. Paid services are generally available on a monthly or annual subscription (Netflix, Hulu).  To access the content provided by a free service, the user has to watch ads (YouTube). Free services broadcast content without any conditions.

The operator partially controls clients’ devices. For example, the operator can reboot the user’s set-top box to update software or they can send a notification to the users’ smartphone or smart TV.

Viewers are gradually doing away with cable and satellite and instead opting for IPTV and OTT services. Drawn in by video on demand, multiscreen, simple content selection, and high-quality picture and sound. However, IPTV and OTT services have their pros and cons. IPTV guarantees quality service but only within their network. OTT offers access to content anywhere there is the Internet but has no control over the speed of the user’s Internet connection.

What is multiscreen?

Subscribers want to be able to watch content when it is convenient for them and on any device available.

IPTV/OTT multiscreen services deliver content to any device: set-top boxes, smart TVs, smartphones, and tablets.

Multiscreen helps attract even users who are mostly out of the house and hardly watch TV.

How it works in practice
The Multiscreen solution by Infomir supports Roku and Apple TV media players, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Samsung Smart TVs, Tizen TV, and LG webOS. Users can watch content on Android TV and conventional Android devices.

With multiscreen, viewers can choose which device to watch content on. The service even allows you to switch between devices while watching content. For example, you can start watching a video on your smartphone on the way from work and then continue watching it on your TV at home.

Types of content broadcasting

IPTV/OTT services offer viewers two types of content: linear TV and video on demand (VoD). With linear TV, viewers can only watch what is broadcast; with video on demand, however, they select the video they want to watch from the provider’s catalog.

Linear TV is a regular broadcasting network: to watch the program, the viewer turns on the TV channel at the specified time. If the operator offers a TV archive, the movie or news release you missed will be available for several more days.

VoD (Video on Demand) is the technology used for individual delivery of content at a viewer’s request. It is one of the main pros of IPTV/OTT services. The viewer chooses from the catalog of available movies, TV series, or shows and watches them at any time.

Video on demand is getting more and more popular because viewers no longer want to have to adhere to the schedule of the TV program. With VoD, subscribers are not bound to a specific broadcasting time: the content is available at any time.

What you need to know about content protection

Generally, IPTV/OTT services do not create their own content but instead, buy the rights to broadcast it.

In order for rightsholders to entrust their channels, movies, and series to the operator, the operator must protect them from copying, downloading, and editing.

There are several ways to protect content:

  • Distribute it on your network only (as is the case with IPTV).
  • Provide content only for authorized subscribers.
  • Use encryption and conditional access systems. For example, DRM and CAS solutions.

Each rightsholder has its own requirements for content protection. The operator will only receive a broadcasting license if it meets them. For more information on content protection and DRM-systems, please read the article on IPTV/OTT project components.

How content is delivered to subscribers

Operators сhoose from two ways to deliver content over the network:

Unicast is the single-address datacasting. One source, one recipient. The provider only delivers content to one subscriber, other members of the network do not receive it.

Multicast is the casting of data to a group of users from the same network. The source sends data (e.g. a TV channel stream) with a specific IP address to the network. All the devices ‘subscribed’ to this IP address can receive the signal.

IPTV operators use multicast. If several subscribers on the same network simultaneously request the same content (a football match or evening news), the operator will not have to overload the network and broadcast it to each viewer separately.

OTT providers are fine with unicast. These services use someone else’s networks to deliver content and therefore cannot use multicast. The advantage of this method is that the content is only received by the subscriber who requested it.

From the first tutorial by Infomir Academy, you learned how IPTV and OTT services work and why viewers want to watch content on different devices. In the next tutorial, we will tell you what hardware and software the video service consists of, how to choose a robust solution, and launch your own project quickly.

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