Digital Video Articles, Tutorials, Guides & Q & A Since 2007


IPTV Explained: History, Advantages, and Disadvantages

IPTV Explained

Last updated on January 23rd, 2024 at 02:18 am

According to the International Telecommunication Union focus group on IPTV, the accepted IPT V definition is “multimedia services such as television/video/audio/text/graphics/data delivered over IP based networks, managed to provide the required level of quality of service and experience, security, interactivity and reliability.”

That’s a broad definition. For our purposes, we’ll focus on the online streaming of TV shows.

IPTV stands for Internet Protocol TV. Simply put, it delivers TV programming online instead of via cable or satellite TV broadcasts.

The Internet Protocol used to deliver TV content is the same as that used for data transmission over the Internet.

As such, TV shows can be accessed through smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers. In short, any device that supports an Internet connection can support IPTV if a particular service allows it.

The comprehensive range of programming supported by IPTV are live TV, on-demand movies, and TV shows. On top of that, video-on-demand (VOD) and time-shifted programming are available.

Time-shifted programming in IPTV allows you to watch a TV show at a different time other than the time when it was originally broadcast.

For example, you can watch a 4 pm show at 7 pm after returning from work. You don’t have to wait for a rerun of the program.

This is possible through the pause, rewind, and fast-forward functions on the IPTV set-top box.

IPTV History

IPTV is not a recent invention. It has been around since the 1990s. It has its origins in streaming video.

The earliest streaming video attempts were undertaken with technologies like RealVideo and QuickTime.

The groundwork was laid, but IPTV didn’t take off until the early 2000s. This was after broadband Internet became available to the masses.

IPTV was then seen as a serious contender to traditional cable and satellite television services.

Early IPTV Attempts

One of the earliest examples of IPTV was AT&T’s Homezone service deployment in 2002.

A limited number of channels through a set-top box with an Internet connection were provided to subscribers.

Other companies soon jumped on the bandwagon, offering their IPTV packages. Among them were Verizon’s FiOS TV and BT’s BT Vision in the UK.

The late 2000s and early 2010s saw streaming video platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video emerge.

They were instrumental in fuelling the adoption of IPTV.

Today, IPTV is a popular alternative to traditional cable and satellite television. The number of providers has increased tremendously, each providing various packages and services.

Advantages of IPTV

IPTV has certain advantages as stated below:

Increased Flexibility

Consumers have a wider choice of shows to watch.

Apart from live TV, programming options include video on demand (VOD) and movies on demand. Consumers get to choose what content they want to watch. They are not bound by a limited number of channels as with cable and satellite TV.


TV viewing is more pleasurable with a host of interactive features.

Access to on-demand shows is one thing. Viewers also get to use VCR-like features like rewinding, fast-forwarding and pausing.

This puts more control into the hands of viewers.

Superior Picture Quality

Viewers get to watch high-definition (HD) content and also 4K (UHD) ultra high-definition quality video.

This definitely increases their viewing pleasure. With cable and satellite services you may not get 1080p or 4K quality.


You save more with IPTV services compared to cable or satellite TV packages.

You get to subscribe to the content that interests you.

In other words, you get to adjust your viewing choices according to your budget.

Access Flexibility

You don’t need to be tied to your living room to watch your favorite TV shows.

IPTV is available through any device that connects to the Internet.

This would include computers, smartphones and tablets, and TV boxes.

You may also use streaming devices like a Roku or Amazon Fire Stick to view IPTV content.

This gives you the power to watch shows on the go, especially if you often hit the road.

IPTV Disadvantages

Despite IPTV’s advantages over cable and satellite TV, there are some drawbacks that you need to take into consideration.

Internet Connection Charges

You may have to pay separately for Internet charges. IPTV requires broadband Internet. That may cost quite a bit in your country.

Unless you’re using the Internet for work or studying, signing up for an Internet connection just to watch IPTV, isn’t a wise move.

But then some Internet services offer IPTV services bundled with your Internet subscription.

If such a package is available, then you should opt for it if it comes with an attractive cost.

Internet Connection Stability

The enjoyment of IPTV services is dependent on a stable Internet connection.
You must always be connected to the Internet. Your Internet speed must always be consistent.

If your Internet service is disrupted for some reason, you don’t get to enjoy IPTV services.

Additional Equipment Cost

Certain types of IPTV services may need you to buy additional equipment. Most popular IPTV services would work with your Smart TV apps.

In some instances, you may need to buy a TV box to watch IPTV services.

Limited Content Availability

Certain content available over cable and satellite TV may not be available over IPTV. So, you would have to check if your favorite shows could be watched over Internet TV.

Satellite and cable TV stations may not want to license some popular shows to other services.

Security Issues

Since IPTV relies on the Internet, hackers may get hold of personal information if you’re not careful. So, you’ve to take the necessary measures to ensure that IPTV and Internet connections are secure.

Also, read How to Start Your Own IPTV Business: No Experience or Huge Capital Needed.


IPTV at Wikipedia

IPTV and Internet Video: Expanding the Reach of Television Broadcasting
By Wes Simpson, Howard Greenfield

Free Video Workshop