Time and time again, the numbers have proven that we are shifting into a a world that streams it all. Pretty soon, we might be streaming our meals. A majority of households either pay or are willing to pay a higher proportion of their budget for subscription streaming services over cable. OTT (over-the-top) services and IPTV (internet protocol television) are two of the most common alternatives to cable TV.
For the average viewer, there may not seem to be much of a difference between digital cable and IPTV. Both service providers can offer hundreds of different TV channels, HD programming, pay-per-view, video on demand, program guides, and more. The difference is in the delivery: IPTV is delivered to a TV, PC, or other device through a private network via the internet. A series of internet protocol packets encode video streams, which are then carried out through a broadband connection, allowing anyone with a connected router and subscription to the service to stream freely. In addition, instead of the traditional cable set-top box, the user usually requires no more than a flash-drive like device to get set up. ROKU and Amazon Fire TV are popular IPTV services.
In comparison, OTT (over-the-top) video services use the publicly accessible Internet to deliver video streams. Such content is not just available via set-top-boxes, but also via any devices that can access the Internet – such as phones, tablets and smart TVs with a broadband connection. OTT is television from third-party services like Netflix and YouTube, delivered over the open Internet.
Affordability, variety, mobility.
- Price: Monthly prices as lows as $5, with much free content on YouTube and Hulu.
- Installation: All you need is a laptop or phone. (Having a streaming TV box like the Roku or Apple TV enhances the experience, though.)
- Programming: Wide choice of providers, with Netflix and others now offering original programming similar to cable.
- Quality: Subject to Internet speed, with “buffering” and other wait-times common for slow connections and peak-hour viewing.
- Programming: While most shows can be found via major streaming services, some are cable-only and they generally don’t reach OTT streaming until the end of the season.
- Data caps: Many ISPs now have limits on how much data you can consume, putting a limit on how much you can watch each month. (Yes, even with “unlimited” plans.)
- Quality: High-quality video with fewer interruptions than OTT streaming due to privately managed content delivery network.
- Programming: View-on-demand and get shows date of release.
- Installation: requires no special installation aside from a set-top box, assuming you already have broadband Internet.
- Price: Sold as a subscription at comparable rates to cable TV.
- Quality: Since it comes over the Internet, it can get slowed down during peak hours.