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What is IPTV?


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What Is IPTV?

Internet protocol TV (IPTV) is TV delivered via the internet, and it comes in three flavors: video-on-demand IPTV, live TV streaming IPTV, and time-shifted IPTV.

Video-on-demand (VOD) IPTV

Video-on-demand IPTV has three subtypes:

  • Transactional video-on-demand (TVOD) is for renting or buying digital movies and shows through TVOD retailers like Amazon Prime Video, Google Play Movies, Redbox, and VUDU.
  • Subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) is where you pay a monthly fee to access a library of movies and shows. Popular SVOD IPTV services include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Paramount+.
  • Advertising video-on-demand (AVOD) or free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services have no monthly fee, but unskippable ads. Think Sling Freestream, Tubi, and Pluto TV.

Live TV streaming IPTV

Like SVOD and AVOD, some live TV streaming services involve subscriptions, and others are free to watch but have unskippable ads. The difference is that the main feature of this IPTV type isn’t a content library—it’s a lineup of live, linear TV channels.

Some of these services, like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV, have both live TV and a deep on-demand library. You might hear these services described as hybrid IPTV.

Time-shifted IPTV

Some services, like Hulu, Paramount+, or Peacock, have only the last five episodes of a currently airing series. That’s called time-shifted IPTV. It means you can watch episodes later than the usual time slot—but not forever—making it easier to stay caught up on TV series.

Is IPTV the same as OTT?

IPTV is similar to, but not the same as, over-the-top TV (OTT).

OTT streams content to an app over a public, unmanaged internet connection and frequently involves SVOD services both live (YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV) and on-demand (Netflix or Paramount+), or AVOD/FAST services (Sling Freestream or Tubi). OTT services beat IPTV in ease of installation, device compatibility, price, and accessibility.

IPTV streams content over a private, managed, remote server and doesn’t use as much of your bandwidth as OTT. These services are tricky to install and often require a special IPTV box and a router, but they have better content quality and delivery.

How do I get IPTV?

You probably already have IPTV. How can you tell? Take our quiz!

  • Do you watch YouTube?
  • Do you subscribe to a live TV or on-demand streaming service like Hulu + Live TV or Netflix?
  • Do you use an AVOD streaming service like Tubi or Pluto TV?
  • Do you rent or buy digital movies and shows?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you have (or have used) legal IPTV. We will discuss that more in the next section.

To get potentially illegal IPTV, you sign up online—typically on a questionable site. Depending on the IPTV service, you may or may not have a monthly payment, and you’ll have to buy an IPTV box. We don’t recommend these services, hence the lack of specifics.

Is IPTV legal?

IPTV is legal if the IPTV service licenses the content fair and square—that’s a critical difference between the major IPTV (streaming TV) services and the questionable ones.

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