Web TV grows up

The age of streaming TV over the internet is here. How do you take advantage of it?
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Dozens of TV channels and still there’s nothing to watch? Just wait – web TV is bringing you much more, wherever and whenever you want. It’s a bandwagon everyone seems to be jumping aboard: broadcasters, ISPs, TV manufacturers and the three giants of the internet – Google, Microsoft and Apple. It’s driven by technology (broadband) and the prospect of substantial profits. Half a century ago, a commercial TV franchise was a “licence to print money”, according to the media baron Lord Thompson, but with the visual broadcast spectrum limited and highly regulated, today it’s the internet that promises to deliver the gold.

But there’s no consensus on how to go about it. The wide range of approaches and the alliances between the various players make the whole thing pretty confusing. To help guide you through this rapidly spreading jungle, we’ll take a look at what’s currently available and how you can use it.

So what’s web TV?

Web TV is also sometimes called IPTV (internet protocol television), although there are some differences between the two. IPTV is a developing standards-based implementation of commercial live and on-demand TV services delivered over the internet. Primarily, the destination of these services is the lounge room TV, though they’re not necessarily restricted to it. By contrast, Web TV can encapsulate some of this but is more commonly used for TV services you might view through a computer, often via a browser.

Regardless of the form, the opportunity is to bring a lot more content into our homes from free-to-air TV through to sporting events, overseas channels, and on-demand movies. Unlike traditional free-to-air TV, web TV provides the ability to pause, rewind, fast forward or replay content as you choose. With the internet as the distribution medium and content stored in digital form, there’s tremendous flexibility in how content can be consumed.

You can access some of this capability through your computer right now without spending a cent, but for the real web TV experience  you’ll need to acquire some new hardware.


These are some of the terms you might come across delving into this topic.

ADSL - asymmetric digital subscriber line, technology to deliver broadband over standard copper phone lines
DRM - digital rights management
EPG - electronic program guide
FTA - free to air, the broadcast TV channels (ABC, 7, 9, 10, SBS)
HD - high definition (video), 720p and above
HDMI - high definition multimedia interface, the highest quality connection standard
HTML5 - hypertext mark-up language, version 5, which includes video
IP - internet protocol
IPTV - internet protocol television
ISP - internet service provider
Podcast - a series of digital media files generally downloaded for later use
PVR - personal video recorder
SD - standard definition (video), below 720
VOD - video on demand
Vodcast - analogous to podcast, specifically for VOD
VPN - virtual private network, using the internet for private connections

For more information on software and online services, or further articles on home entertainment, visit our Technology  section. 




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