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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04.Streaming across the world

The Wider World

Overseas content

No matter how many different sources of content there may be, the range often appears to be the same: movies, material from Australian free-to-air channels and a miscellany of strange channels of marginal interest. Even popular TV shows from overseas usually take quite a while to arrive on local channels.

All of which makes people clamour for access to the BBC’s iPlayer and the US site Hulu. For copyright reasons, neither is available here and attempts to access them are blocked. It’s copyright, too, that makes local networks frown on attempts to save downloads from their catch-up sites.

  • The BBC plans to make iPlayer available worldwide, but don’t get too excited. It’s a subscription service for about $10 per month, and only available on an iPad.
  • In the US, Hulu offers content from the major US networks soon after broadcast, either with ads or for a monthly fee. Rumours last year that Channel 9 was negotiating to bring it here seem to have faded, and with the commercial networks dependent on the same content, it’s unlikely to arrive here in the same form, despite Hulu’s stated intention to do so.

What about peer-to-peer - or IPTV?

The wide world of on-demand video also includes Bittorrent and other peer-to-peer networks (P2P), led by so-called pirate sites like The Pirate Bay and Isohunt. However, it’s an efficient mechanism for legitimate content too, and a lesson in ease of use other providers could learn from.

The convergence of TV and the internet seems inevitable, but if you’re not a big TV watcher it may not seem compelling to purchase a smart TV or an IPTV device just yet. For now, you can get much of this web TV content through your browser. However, as these services increasingly become the norm, it will be fascinating to see how the IPTV landscape develops, especially in relation to paid and on-demand content. This is perhaps the most appealing prospect of IPTV – the ability to watch TV on your terms.

Streaming across the world

The internet is really a vast packet delivery network, designed to carry a message from A to B over any route it can find. Consequently, you’d expect that if a whole range of people wanted the same content at the same time, they’d all have a separate copy working its way through the network.

However, the designers of the TCP/IP protocols allowed for this and included something called Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP), which allows for a message to be sent once from the centre to distribution points before it gets fanned out to individual recipients. This has the effect of vastly reducing the total traffic, and enables ISPs to broadcast channels over IP without clogging up the system.

Not for travel

You might think the TV catch-up services would be really handy when you’re travelling overseas – you could catch that vital next episode without waiting until you get back. Unfortunately, they’re not accessible overseas – copyright means access to the services is restricted by region.


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