If you haven’t heard of IPTV before, chances are you probably will – or, better yet, you are already using some incarnation of it without even knowing. IPTV is gaining momentum, and it’s high time to keep your tabs on how it’s changing the media streaming game. 

In this blog post, we will discuss what IPTV is and offer an overview of the different types of IPTV.

Without further ado, let’s cut straight to it.

What is IPTV?

In a nutshell, IPTV is to TV what VoIP is to telephones. Just like the name suggests, IPTV is TV delivered to the end users through the means of internet protocols. 

IPTV is a much needed technological upgrade to the traditional TV watching experience.  It caters to the more discerning consumers – modern TV audiences and cord-cutters looking for more choice, convenience and control over when they watch the content. IPTV offers just that – it bridges the gap between television and the watching experience known from streaming services like Netflix or Hulu. 

While it shares some affinity with VOD streaming services, IPTV is not as much about binging your favourite series, but more about watching regular TV programs (news, weather and sports) like in the old days – using low latency streaming protocols. We’ve written about them in another post on the blog

But first things first.

How does IPTV work?

IPTV uses Internet Protocol (IP) to deliver television content to your end device – a computer (through an ordinary web browser) or, for a much better experience, a set-top box connected to your HDTV. 

We won’t be getting into the weeds here, but here’s the gist of how IPTV works.

It all starts with the satellite

While you might think that IPTV completely eliminates satellites from the equation, it’s not exactly true. Live content would still be fed from satellites and local antennas, and then be received by the central unit where it’s encoded, encrypted and delivered in the form of IP stream to the end users’ devices. 

Because the IPTV central unit also serves advertising, Live TV Streaming Servers, Video on Demand (VOD) servers and platforms and is where on-demand video assets are stored and served as IP unicast streams when a user makes a request. The VOD platform may be integrated with the IPTV’s central unit.

What are the different types of IPTV?

While IPTV is definitely still a pretty niche market, it’s slowly gaining momentum. Services like Hulu and Netflix, on top of their original programming, obtain licensing rights to popular TV shows and add them to their roster. Modern consumers are increasingly expecting convenient various forms of access video on demand to fit TV watching experience around their hectic lifestyles.

The emergence of different flavors of IPTV is a clear sign that there is a market for this kind of technology, and a huge potential for monetizing on the shift changing in TV watching habits.

So, what types of IPTV are there?

Catch-up TV

Catch-up TV is the most attractive incarnation of IPTV – it basically bridges the gap between traditional TV and streaming VOD services. Many leading providers like FOX, CBS, and NBC now offer apps that viewers can download to catch up on the TV content they missed. FOX, CBS, and NBC offer dedicated IPTV apps that allow viewers to watch the shows that they missed on live TV without the need to record anything via a TiVo or another set-top box with recording functionality.

IPTV comes in many flavors and chances are you are probably using it already to some extent. 


Video on demand probably needs no introduction here, but it’s still worth mentioning as it’s also a part of the IPTV. Just like Netflix or Hulu, IPTV is now being offered by some of the world’s leading TV broadcasters. In the UK, for example, the BBC makes its programs available online for a week from their original airing – using a web-based streaming video app called the BBC iPlayer (see screen below).

BBC iPlayer is available on mobile phones and tablets, personal computers, and smart televisions.

BBC iPlayer is available on mobile phones and tablets, personal computers, and smart televisions. iPlayer services delivered to UK-based viewers feature no commercial advertising.

Near Video on Demand

nVOD is VOD with a simple twist – consumers can’t watch anything they want. Instead, the content broadcasting schedule is compiled beforehand. This puts nVOD somewhere between traditional TV and VOD. 

In nVOD content is paid for in the Pay-Per-View model, but shows and films are offered in pre-designated time slots – subscribers must decide what they’ll be watching. The programs available for selection are broadcast at regular intervals, typically 20 minutes – so once they decide, the viewers don’t have to wait long before the film starts. 

Time-shifted media/TV

Time-shifted TV (aka catch-up TV or time-shifted media) is something you’re probably already familiar with. Many networks now allow users to catch up on the missed shows at their convenience. 

Time-shifted TV is in many ways similar to VOD, but what’s different here is the “shelf life” of content that you’re allowed to watch – IPTV content will eventually disappear making space for fresh content. For example, if you missed the football match last night, you will be able to stream it from the dedicated app – but only for a limited period of time until it’s gone. VOD, on the other hand, doesn’t usually put such limitations on content, unless we’re talking about the “cycling” of content – you’ve probably seen this before when select films or shows periodically disappear from your service of choice due to expired licensing deals.

BBC’s iPlayer is an example of a time-shifted media streaming service.


Live IPTV (aka IP simulcasting) is just like traditional live television only it’s delivered through the internet protocol. Like traditionally broadcast TV, it allows you to watch live content through IPTV. Live IPTV is very popular – many people watch sporting events this way from FOX Sports Go, CBS Sports HQ, Hulu Live TV, and Sling TV all offer live IPTV. Live IPTV nicely adapts to modern watcher’s habits, allowing watching media on your a while you’re on the go.

CBS Sports HQ focuses on live sports content and boasts compatibility with multiple platforms.

CBS Sports HQ focuses on live sports content and boasts compatibility with multiple platforms.

Other than being broadcast over the internet instead of through traditional TV media, live IPTV is pretty much the same as regular TV.

Who is offering IPTV?

As more and more people are ditching their cable subscription in favour of more affordable and convenient options, there are many companies offering IPTV subscriptions, promising premium content at a fraction of the cost. Sky, Netflix, BT Sport and many others are already offering some kind of IPTV that complements their traditional TV programming. The number of providers is still growing.

Sports content providers are the pioneering IPTV providers. This is no surprise as, even with streaming services taking up an increasingly big share of the market, access to live sports content remains in high demand. In fact, for many people this remains the last viable reason to keep their cable TV subscriptions. 

Because there is a growing number of cord-cutters, many sports broadcasters are future-proofing their offerings by embracing some form of IPTV technology.

There are many content providers offering IPTV – Epicstream, NOW TV and TVPlayer are examples of popular IPTV offerings. There is an unofficial, regularly updated list on the internet.

Now TV launched in the UK in 2012 and is operated by Sky (British satellite television provider).

Now TV launched in the UK in 2012 and is operated by Sky (British satellite television provider).

How to use IPTV?

So, IPTV sounds like a cool idea. “How do I sign up?” – you may be asking. It’s very likely that you already have all it takes to get started with IPTV – you may actually be using some version of IPTV already. 

All you need to get started is an internet connection and a laptop, but this doesn’t sound like the best possible watching experience. Since IPTV has TV in the name, it’s more geared towards bigger screens and set-top boxes – internet-enabled devices attached to your TV which connect to the internet and decode the signal before the content is displayed on the widescreen TV in your living room. 

There are a couple of ways to watch IPTV content.

Set top boxes

STBs come in different shapes and sizes, but at the core idea remains the same. The role of the end device is to receive packets of data, decrypt it, convert them back into video formats (e.g. MPEG2, MPEG4), and then send the content to the connected TV. 

Apple is a very popular way of accessing IPTV content through dedicated apps.

Apple is a very popular way of accessing IPTV content through dedicated apps. It runs a slimmed-down operating system (tvOS), to manage the process of streaming video via the Internet.

HDMI dongles 

An HDMI dongle is a more compact alternative to a set-top box. It’s a small device which you stick directly into your HDMI port and a USB port for power. Dongles connect to your home’s Wi-Fi and stream TV programs, movies, and music directly. Some dongles are entirely self-sufficient: Roku and Amazon Fire work this way without any help from a computer or mobile device. 

Google’s Chromecast is a little bit different: generally, you get it going with your computer, tablet, or smartphone (which effectively becomes a remote control), after which it directly streams your movie or TV program from the Internet.

Smart IPTV

Smart IPTV (aka SIPTV) is probably the easiest way to play your IPTV streams. The app is compatible with many devices like Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, LG Smart TVs, Samsung Smart TVs, and MAG devices. Smart IPTV is an IPTV player with an electronic program guide) that gives you easy access to the channels that you want. 

Smart IPTV home screen packed with IPTV channels

Smart IPTV home screen packed with IPTV channels.

Because the app does not contain channels out of the box, each channel has to be added and paid for separately. How to set up IPTV channels on Smart IPTV? Follow this simple guide.


Technology-wise, IPTV seems like a long overdue update to TV broadcasting, and one that will probably save television from oblivion. It adds freedom to the decades-old concept of television by allowing you to watch TV content not only on your TV, but also on your smartphone, PC and tablet.

In the coming years, IPTV will continue gaining share in the market. While this growth is largely at the expense of cable TV providers, it does not affect satellite television that much – IPTV platforms are typically still dependent on satellite as feed channels to the headends for distribution across the terrestrial fixed broadband infrastructure.