IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is a method of distributing television content over broadband that enables a more customised and interactive user experience. IPTV will mean a significant change in viewing habits. Viewers will be able to watch what they want, when they wish to. Interactive TV services will be a crucial differentiator for the multitude of IPTV products that are emerging. Interactivity via a fast two-way connection will lift IPTV ahead of today’s television.
IPTV combines the television, internet and telephone. Similar to cable or satellite television, IPTV utilizes a set-top box (STB) that allows audiences to watch hundreds of channels and purchase movies through video-on-demand (VOD). IPTV uses broadband ADSL, the same technologies that delivers high-speed Internet to the computer. This opens the door in order to much more interactivity and the potential for hundreds, as opposed to hundreds, of channels.
Find What’s On
All IPTV services will offer basic interactivity to support routing and search of the vast amounts of content. An electronic programme guide (EPG) will allow viewers to browse the geradlinig and on-demand content that is available.
EPGs are likely to allow viewers to look at program listings up to two weeks in advance, and also look back over programmes through the previous seven days broadcast schedule. An effective search facility will allow viewers to look for programmes by title, genre and keywords. Filters will allow viewers to show lists of movies, music, pay-per-view events and high definition programmes.
The particular EPG will be customisable by viewers, who will be able to create their own line-up of favourite channels and content. As well as full-screen layouts, EPGs may have a mini-overlay mode which will permit the viewer to keep watching the current programme while browsing the schedule.
Individual Video Recorder
Many IPTV fixed top boxes will incorporate a Personal Video Recorder (PVR) that will allow programmes and interactive content to be documented. Viewers will be able to watch one program while recording another. They’ll become able to use interactive services or video on demand while recording in the background. While watching linear TV programming, viewers will be able to pause plus rewind live television.
The PVR will be programmed via the Electronic Program Guide. Intelligent series linking allows programme episodes to be recorded based on preferences; first-runs, repeats, or all occurrences. Programme and movie trailers will contain interactive links that can be selected to schedule a recording. Remote control scheduling of recording will also be achievable using a mobile phone or the web.
With IPTV, viewers can watch a lot more television at the same time. Sports activities fans will be able to keep an eye on six online games at once, on the same screen, or study one game from multiple digital camera angles. Viewer involvement will be prompted through voting, competitions and messages services.
Interactive advertising may extend traditional linear advertising. It will eventually allow advertisers to give product info in the form of an on-screen interactive brochure. This will re-enforce the brand communications and encourage viewer involvement with the product.
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It will also allow a direct element to be added to any TV advertising campaign, with responses being captured through viewers.
The two-way nature of an IPTV connection makes it ideal for providing person-to-person communication services. Instant messaging services will allow viewers to ‘chat’ via text messages whilst continuing to watch TV. Video conferencing over television will allow virtual family gatherings when family members are spread across the world.
Services will be used both as stand-alone applications, and as add-ons to programming. Friends will be able to chat while watching a programme ‘together’ in different locations. Phone-in shows will be able to display callers, linked directly from their home.