How do broadcasters meet the future demands of television?

BLOG by Luke Durham, CTO, Switch Media

Two very commonly used terms in the video streaming industry are IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) and OTT (Over-the-Top). But what’s the difference between the two and how are they evolving to meet the growing expectations of viewers?

The main difference is that OTT streamed content is delivered via public internet, however IPTV uses a service provider’s own infrastructure (hardware/equipment). Being a private, dedicated network, this often results in delivery of a more consistent service.

Although becoming a less commonly used term, IPTV is still there – continuing to evolve in the background alongside OTT technology. Essentially IPTV provides traditional free-to-air broadcasters with the opportunity to embrace new technologies and compete with the streaming giants via the integration of internet-delivered services alongside existing free-to-air-services.

We’re not just talking about VOD content, but also internet delivered linear TV services. This is supported by the latest HbbTV 2.0 specification, which significantly improves support for IP linear streaming, allowing free-to-air platforms to mix IP-only channels with VOD content alongside free-to-air. Hybrid broadcast broadband TV (HbbTV) is a global initiative aimed at harmonising the broadcast and broadband delivery of entertainment services to consumers through connected TVs, set-top boxes and multiscreen devices. The channels can be free, subscription-based or provide paid content (pay-per-view) in addition to free-to-air.

IP-delivered adverts also provide broadcasters with increased monetisation with ads tailored to the preferences of the viewers. The ability to replace traditional broadcast ad breaks with more targeted and relevant ads enhances effective monetisation and maximises ad revenue. This is particularly true in the live sports arena. With advertising being such a lucrative revenue stream, it’s vital to get it right. Advances in dynamic ad insertion technology mean media companies can now provide a seamless OTT viewing experience, as well as addressable advertising options. This enables the delivery of a high-quality ad experience whilst elevating the advertiser’s ROI.

Part of the growth of IPTV opportunities for broadcasters is the rising demand for fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) connections, which offers a fixed access network to provide high-speed broadband, significantly improving user experience. New Zealand’s Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative, one of the country’s largest ever civil engineering projects, will see fibre network internet access to 87 percent of the country’s 4.7 million population by 2022. Residents are seeing speeds up to 10 Gigabits per second, which is impressive. Although the broadband network in Australia has some way to go before reaching those speeds,  a team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities recorded the world’s fastest internet speed — 44.2 terabits per second — from a single optical chip earlier this year. This would allow users to download 1000 HD movies in a split second! The researchers load-tested the network using 76.6km of ‘dark’ optical fibres installed across Melbourne. They used a ‘micro-comb’, an optical chip replacing 80 separate infrared lasers, capable of carrying communication signals. Could this be the technology of the future? Only time will tell.

Communities in the Pacific Islands now have access to high-speed broadband for the first time ever.

The recent completion of an undersea cable between Australia, the Solomon Islands and Papa New Guinea has significantly increased connectivity, creating new technology opportunities for communities on these islands.

There are huge opportunities for global broadcasters to integrate IPTV services as part of their multi-play packages broadening their content aggregation ability. By doing this they create new strategies that meet the future demands of television and increased viewer satisfaction. It’s a win win!