As the name suggests, IPTV is television broadcast over Internet Protocols. This means its television services are provided via your internet and broadband connections instead of radio frequency. It's one of the most efficient ways to broadcast television, and it's one of the most common nowadays.
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IPTV vs streaming
Although it may sound confusing, IPTV isn’t necessarily the same thing as ‘streaming’ as we tend to refer to it. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus are examples of Over The Top (OTT) content. OTT content is delivered via the internet but on an open and public internet connection rather than a private one. This means you can access it from your computer on a standard internet connection.
In contrast, IPTV content is delivered via a closed or private connection and typically requires a set-top box to access it. IPTV content is more similar to traditional satellite or cable subscriptions, as broadband and TV providers such as BT, TalkTalk and Virgin Media allow you to access digital TV content via your broadband connection.
Types of IPTV content in the UK
IPTV content comes in a number of different formats:
1. Catch-up TV
Most TV set-top boxes include catch-up TV as well as the ability to pause, rewind, and record live TV. This is a useful tool but it’s limited to a specific window of time, allowing you to catch up on, for example, the last 30 minutes of a show that you might have missed.
2. Video on Demand
Video on Demand is, like the name suggests, video content you can select and play on-demand. This will include things like box sets or box office purchases or rentals that you can select and view whenever you choose.
Live IPTV streaming
Live IPTV streaming is live broadcasting delivered via your internet connection as opposed to by satellite, the most popular being concerts and live sports events.
Which providers offer IPTV?
Most major broadband providers in the UK include IPTV services that are delivered via a TV set-top box and require a compatible broadband connection.
Sky On Demand
While the majority of Sky’s TV content is still delivered via satellite, many of its services are provided by IPTV, such as Sky Box Sets and On Demand. You will need a Sky Q set-top box and an active internet connection to use these IPTV services.
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BT customers can access BT TV via a YouView box, giving them access to a range of TV packages including entertainment channels, sports channels and movie channels.
To get BT TV, you would need to also have a BT broadband subscription.
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While TalkTalk TV options have been significantly reduced in recent months, the provider still has some options for its IPTV service. Like BT TV, TalkTalk TV is delivered using a YouView set-top box and allows you to watch, pause, rewind and record live TV.
While its TalkTalk TV Boosts have since been replaced with the option to add-on NOW TV memberships, you can still use the IPTV services to watch free-to-air channels.
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Virgin Media’s IPTV offerings are powered by TiVo, and are bundled in with its incredibly fast cable broadband packages.
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Is IPTV any good?
There’s a lot of choice when it comes to digital TV services. And with the growing success and popularity of platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus, TV and broadband providers are working hard to offer comparable services that can be bundled in with their broadband and TV deals.
Benefits of IPTV
The flexibility to watch content whenever you want, unlike traditionally-scheduled TV shows, is one of the biggest advantages of IPTV. Whether you’re catching up on the latest shows you missed or binge-watching box sets, there’s no set time you need to watch.
Unlike traditional terrestrial, satellite or cable TV, you can access IPTV content whenever you want from a suitable device, including a smart TV, laptop or smartphone.
To compete with platforms like Netflix and Disney Plus, IPTV services are usually competitively priced, and will probably be available bundled in with your home broadband package.
How do I get IPTV?
To use IPTV, you need to have a connection with an IPTV provider that will supply you with a set-top box. Most premium packages from BT, TalkTalk, Sky and Virgin Media provide the box and waive an installation fee if you’re a new customer.
When comparing TV deals, it’s important to consider the following:
Cost of installation
Other perks of the broadband bundle
Cost of set-top box
Speed of connection
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