Written by: Roshan Dwivedi
We often come across the terms OTT and IPTV when talking about the video streaming industry.
Don’t beat yourself up if these terms seem puzzling. We hear ya and are here to help.
OTT and IPTV, both, refer to delivering content to the end users, however, there is a stark difference in the mechanism used by both for content delivery. With this blog, we have attempted to provide some clarity on how OTT and IPTV are distinct.
We’ve specially crafted this blog if you are a newbie to these terms and want to learn the basics. Also, we guarantee, this blog will make your life easier if you are looking to venture into starting your own OTT/IPTV service.
OTT is one of the trendiest terms in the entertainment segment right now since it is at the epicenter of the merger between the online and television worlds.
What makes it so trendy?
Don’t just lean back and think that it will wash over you, well actually you can, after what you are about to read. Let’s get this straight. To start with, let’s just say that OTT offers the ability to quickly offer a variety of streaming services to customers so they can watch whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want (via data networks/Wi-Fi) on whichever device they want (choice of device – tablet, smartphone, desktop, laptop).
Streaming service providers that offer Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) or Over-the-Top (OTT) solutions are preferred by viewers over service providers that do not offer these services.
Let’s get down to what exactly these terms mean and what essentially is the difference between the two.
What is OTT?
OTT refers to “over-the-top”, meaning distribution of video-on-demand (VOD) and film content delivered via the internet without necessitating the need for a subscription to traditional cable or satellite pay-TV service such as Time Warner Cable or AT&T. Some popular OTT services include Netflix, Amazon Prime video and Hulu to name a few. To know more about OTT, check out Muvi’s all-inclusive blog on What is OTT?
What is IPTV?
IPTV refers to Internet Protocol Television which is used for delivering video and related services over the internet.
In order to get internet TV, a broadband connection and a router are needed. So videos are sent over the internet for receiving on a PC or other device. Set-top boxes and TVs that include IPTV services will let you access TV channels like Showtime, Fox Network, CBS, HBO etc.
IPTV is a technology for watching television using Internet Protocol over LAN or the Internet, instead of watching TV over cable or satellite. IPTV has an advantage over downloaded media in that it can stream directly from the source, in smaller chunks of data. This effect is known as streaming media.
For more insights on IPTV and to understand its inner workings including its architecture, please visit the muvi blog on What is IPTV? How does IPTV work?
Is OTT better than IPTV? What is the difference?
It’s a known fact that OTT and IPTV platform are systems wherein video is delivered via the internet. So what exactly is the difference between the two? Let’s take a closer look!
IPTV is delivered over a service provider’s own infrastructure (hardware/equipment) whereas OTT is delivered via public internet.
Even though both OTT and IPTV use the internet to deliver streaming content, OTT streaming is provided through open unmanaged internet whereas IPTV uses a dedicated, managed network or infrastructure provided by the operator. With services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and others, OTT has been gaining increasing popularity in the last few years.
Let’s delve a little deeper into some basic differences between IPTV and OTT:
|Network scalability, end-user applications
and infrastructure are the three most important areas of concentration.
|Does not require multiple system operators for controlling and distributing content|
|Requires 3 major components namely private, IP-based connected TV, a content headend (a master facility for receiving, processing and distributing IPTV signals) and a set-top box.||Content is delivered to any connected device using an unmanaged, public Internet network. No external equipment like set-top box is required.|
Content is delivered via an ISP’s own infrastructure which may resemble existing digital cable TV setups however they are different from digital cable TV in the sense that IPTV signals are transmitted using a different protocol (format) and different network.
|It uses no dedicated network, infrastructure is made available provided by an operator.|
|IPTV service providers work with TV channels and primarily aim to distribute channel content with options for catch up TV (record, replay), time-shifted TV. IPTV service providers may or may not offer video on demand content.||OTT service providers work with distributors/production houses and primarily aim to acquire and deliver on demand content whilst providing options of live streaming of TV Channels.|
|IPTV requires the device to be connected via a broadband cable based connection||OTT can be viewed on any device data or Wi-Fi and does not necessitate a broadband based connectivity.|
|IPTV services typically provide EPG (Electronic Program Guide) which is an on-screen guide of scheduled broadcast programming television programs.||OTT service providers typically provide a catalog of viewable content for viewers to pick and choose from.|
The internet service providers (ISPs) that actually deliver the content that arrives from OTT providers like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime are doing so simply by delivering IP packets of data and not “video content”. They don’t distinguish between a data packet carrying video clips from a data packet carrying a piece of email.Quality of content and picture for both OTT and IPTV are different. OTT uses public internet for transport, hence the quality of media content varies according to the quality and speed of the internet connection.
So essentially content quality is the difference between OTT and IPTV. Since IPTV-provided content is transmitted through a network managed by a service provider which directly reaches the customer, a higher quality of video is received.
In OTT, quality of content is not controlled like how it is controlled by standardized metrics for IPTV from the IPTV Interoperability Forum (IIF). Since OTT provides media through content aggregators and user-generated content that is unmanaged hence it cannot be guaranteed to be “high quality”.
The business model, service quality, content quality, ownership, cost etc differ for both OTT and IPTV.
Quite simply, the over-the-top (OTT) proponents say it should be all about the viewers and by that they mean that they should be able to access the content they desire and watch it whenever and wherever they want on the device they choose.
Proponents of OTT believe OTT has a wider scope compared to IPTV since streaming video content via IPTV requires a set-top-box which in most cases includes content provided by a specific supplier. Since it is all about the viewers and viewers get to decide the content they desire to access and watch whenever and wherever they want and on the device they choose by a simple installation of the video streaming app so they can literally watch TV everywhere.
IPTV-ers on the other hand question why providers that deliver bandwidth to stream content should be burdened with the cost of upgrading their networks to manage the enormous bandwidth demands of OTT video.
With how OTT has evolved in terms of it being offered for multiscreen viewing, in real-time via social media and literally living up to the term “TV Everywhere”, it is challenging all forms of media like traditional TV/linear TV, satellite TV etc that were introduced prior to it’s inception. So more viewers are considering dropping their IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) subscriptions altogether and switching over to OTT.
So what’s the future like? OTT or IPTV?
Well, the answer lies in the details in terms of how well providers meet their delivery objectives. User experience is what will determine what end users choose ultimately. So the solution is how communications providers, vendors and the industry as a whole choose to approach the challenge of providing a great user experience.
The winners will be providers who work towards leveraging OTT opportunities and deliver superior quality to their IPTV pay subscribers.
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