Television is still a very important part of our lives today as it was for the first families who enjoyed television decades ago. However, unlike those families and even families of the 1950s to 1970s, the way we get television now is considerably different from the way they did back then. Back then, it was just over-the-antenna television through “rabbit ears” or other antennas that picked up the free television airwaves, normally from their broadcast stations in their own local area.
Various Types of TV Service
Nowadays, we have many options to pick up television, and we can even pick up television from the other side of the globe. Cable television’s origins stretch back to 1948, but the Cable TV most are familiar with really took off in the 1980s, where additional channels of content could be received only when they were unlocked via a paid subscription. As we continued into the 1990s and early 2000s, satellite TV provided reception of even more channels via a satellite dish and often provided them in better visual quality, forcing cable companies to update their visual quality to digital to match satellite technology.
As the 2000s continued onward and more people were beginning to get greater Internet connection speeds at home thanks to DSL and broadband Internet, people were able to get more and more content online. This meant they were able to access more photos and videos online, which eventually led to people wanting television programming through their online Internet connections. This led to companies making use of Internet connection technology, such as DSL, broadband cable lines, and even fiber optic networks, to enable cable and satellite channels to be brought into homes via their Internet connections. This is often known as IPTV.
As the late 2000s and early 2010s led to the advent of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, people wanted to be able to access more visual and audio content online while out and about. Internet connection speeds have become even faster in the 2010s to the point where people could easily access visual and audio technology from almost anywhere on their mobile devices. This has led to streaming TV to where channel providers are now allowing people to access their exclusive content via their own dedicated apps. Some companies have created subscription plans or lineups of dedicated apps so people can access their favorite shows on the go without even having a dedicated cable or satellite connection. We will explore all of these technologies in more detail below.
IPTV is an acronym for Internet Protocol Television. This technology allows for the delivery of televised content, including video, audio, television, text, data, and graphics, over Internet Protocol (IP) networks. It is done securely and reliably to those who have paid for access (i.e. subscribers) of the service, enabling the service to be delivered at a high level for subscribers, and a key reason why one must pay for access. Without paying for access, one cannot access IPTV and the programs or content within that network. There are three main IPTV services: Live television and media, which can include related interactivity; time-shifted media or replays of a program that has already been aired; and video on demand (VOD), which allows one to access and view select items from within the IPTV’s menu or catalog.
IPTV has been widely used since 2002 to provide television and audio-visual (AV) media around businesses and commercial areas, including live television channels and video-on-demand content. Sports stadiums, airports, schools, hotels, and offices are just some of the many businesses that utilize this technology.
IPTV has really taken off in people’s homes since Internet connection speeds have become faster and more people are utilizing the Internet in their daily lives. Several companies have emerged to provide IPTV to subscribers in the United States. One company is AT&T with its U-verse TV service, where you can access over 234 channels in HD, plus record up to four shows at once via the Total Home DVR® so you can view them at your choosing. Another IPTV company is Comcast with its XFINITY TV service, which utilizes voice recognition technology in order to allow you to select shows you wish to watch instantly and even stream them if you choose on virtually any device. Additionally, you can also access online-only providers such as Netflix right from the X1 IPTV platform. A third IPTV company is Verizon with its Fios TV service, which allows you to record multiple programs at the same time, enable you to pause, rewind, and re-watch live TV, and even watch recordings of shows on your mobile devices via the Fios Mobile App.
Satellite TV Service
Satellite TV is a service that utilizes a communications satellite that is in orbit around the Earth to deliver television programming to subscribers within their homes via the satellite dishes that are installed on their rooftops or in their yards. Those subscribers then have satellite receivers, either as built-in television tuners or set-top boxes, that decode the signals one receives from their satellite dish. There are many television services and networks available via satellite dishes. In many cases, satellite TV is the only service that can reach remote areas because of its utilization of the communication satellite orbiting Earth.
Earlier satellite TV services used analog signals, but like regular television today, current satellite TV services use digital signals for improved reliability and clarity in the content being delivered. The communications satellite used to transmit the signals to subscribers’ homes is located 23,000 miles above the Earth’s equator, allowing it to remain in a fixed position in the sky; as a result, this allows the subscribers’ satellite dishes to be permanently fixed on that location, which improves the signal reliability and service to subscribers.
There are two main satellite TV service providers in the United States: DIRECTV and DISH Network. DIRECTV was acquired in 2015 by AT&T to enable the company to offer a satellite TV offering in addition to its own IPTV U-verse TV offering. DIRECTV offers paid programming accessible via satellite; it also utilizes technology that is used in other technology fields, such as using DVR to enable you to record your favorite shows, then play them back at your convenience. Additionally, you can access your content and your subscription plan, including live TV, on the DIRECTV app.
Similarly, DISH Network also utilizes satellite technology to enable you to access content that is only available via paid subscription. Like with DIRECTV, DISH also allows you to record many hours of content and to play them back at your convenience via their Hopper 3 DVR technology. In addition, you can access content from your DISH Network subscription package via the Dish Anywhere® feature, and you can access any of your content anywhere via the Dish Anywhere® App. They are even integrating voice recognition technology into their platform, as well as integrating Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant technology to make watching your favorite programming even easier and quicker.
Cable TV Service
Cable TV involves delivering television programming through radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables or through light signals transmitted through fiber-optic cables. This differs from broadcast television in that those signals are transmitted over radio waves, which are picked up by an antenna attached to the television. Cable TV’s coaxial cables or fiber-optic cables are also capable of transmitting high-speed Internet, telephone service, and FM radio programming, a key reason why many cable television companies also offer telephone and Internet services as well. Since the 2000s, Cable TV has been providing digital cable quality, partly to counter satellite television’s superior picture and audio quality when it first arrived on the market.
Only those who have a set-top box and a coaxial cable via a paid subscription are able to receive the programming; otherwise, those channels are inaccessible. Even if you had a tuner or satellite dish that could pick up those frequencies, you would not get anything but static, as premium cable TV operators installed scrambling circuitry to block out the signal to all but those who pay for subscriptions, something that did not occur immediately when Cable TV entered the market.
Comcast’s Digital Cable TV Service is known as XFINITY or “X1.” This service allows you to pick up the major cable networks such as CNN, the Cartoon Network, Fox News, Nickelodeon, the Travel Channel, the Food Network, etc., while also giving you the option to pick up more premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, and Epix. Cable companies such as Comcast are integrating technology such as voice remotes and the ability to access online-only broadcasters such as Netflix directly from their platform in an effort to better satisfy consumers’ growing content demands.
Similarly, Charter Spectrum is adding enhanced features to its platform and plans so that consumers have more content choices. With their Spectrum TV Gold plan, subscribers can have access to premium channel Epix. With their Spectrum TV On Demand, subscribers can have access to free primetime shows on their schedule, and if they subscribe to premium channels, they can even play the greatest shows on those networks at virtually any time that they choose.
Cox Communications provides similar features to Comcast and Charter Spectrum. Like those companies as well, they are willing to offer subscribers additional discounts on their cable TV subscriptions if they sign up for other services they offer, including telephone and Internet. Cable TV operators are capable of transmitting more than just television programming; these operators are taking advantage of that capability to offer the consumer more services in return for more significant discounts on those services, often known as “bundling.”
Streaming TV Service
Streaming TV (sometimes known as “streaming media”) is content that is delivered by a provider to an end-user who is continuously receiving that content. Instead of the user downloading the entire content to his/her device (computer, mobile phone, tablet, etc.) before watching and/or listening to it, the user can begin to watch and/or listen to the content while it is being served or “streamed” to the user’s device. This can be done thanks to the Internet connection the user has, either a cellular connection and/or WiFi Internet connection.
The term “streaming” was first applied to tape drives by Data Electronics Inc. for drives that were designed to ramp up slowly, then run for the entire track. In terms of streaming as we think today, it was first applied in the early 1990s to better describe video on demand on IP networks.
Streaming video and audio content became possible when Internet connection speeds became faster in the late 1990s and throughout the 2000s. Now, in the 2010s, it is possible for now home users to have data download speeds of up to 1 Gbps. Slower connection speeds provided by dial-up Internet connections and early DSL and broadband Internet connections would lead to stuttering, causing the video and audio content to cut out periodically, lessening the user experience.
This is why streaming TV has only recently taken off, with Netflix only offering streaming media services since 2007 even though the company has existed since 1997. It’s also why Netflix has invested more in creating its own content for its subscribers over the last few years, beginning with its acclaimed first series, House of Cards, in 2013.
Other streaming TV companies have followed suit. Hulu, a subscription video on demand service jointly owned by Disney-ABC Television Group (30%), NBCUniversal (30%), Fox Entertainment Group (30%), and Turner Broadcasting System (10%), has started producing its own content, plus has teamed up with the aforementioned owners to allow their content to be streamed through their platform.
Amazon Prime is Amazon’s subscription service that allows subscribers to access Amazon’s exclusive series, plus other content such as movies, television shows, and documentaries, through their Amazon account. As additional benefits to subscribing, Amazon Prime also allows subscribers to receive free one-day shipping on their orders from the retailers, stream music from their catalog for free, and more.
Sling TV is DISH Network’s streaming TV service that is especially targeted toward “cord cutters,” those consumers who want to cut their subscriptions to cable and satellite television providers, yet still have access to such cable and satellite channels such as ESPN, CNN, Fox News, and more.
Acorn TV has distributed British television to the United States since 1994, but now streams media content from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland as well. The content is specifically focused on documentaries, comedies, dramas, and both new and classic mysteries. The service can be received through many devices, including Roku, Amazon TV, and Apple TV.
DIRECTV NOW is AT&T’s (as AT&T owns DIRECTV) streaming option for consumers, especially for “cord-cutters.” You don’t have to be subscribed to a DIRECTV programming package to receive DIRECTV NOW. This option was offered to counter long-time rival’s DISH Network’s Sling TV, as well as to provide consumers, especially cord-cutters, a way to gain access to cable and satellite channels without the long-term commitment of a contract inherent in traditional cable and satellite subscriptions.
TV Service – A Conclusion
There are many advantages and disadvantages with each of the four main technologies discussed here: IPTV, Satellite TV, Cable TV, and Streaming TV. IPTV and Streaming TV have given consumers another option to obtain their favorite cable and satellite channels without having to subscribe to a traditional cable or satellite subscription package, thereby saving consumers money. It’s also forced cable and satellite providers to adapt to consumers’ growing demands for more choices in their channel lineups and not having to pay for channels they never watch.
However, the disadvantages with both IPTV and Streaming TV is that you need a fast and reliable Internet connection in order to have the necessary bandwidth to utilize those technologies. Failing to have the necessary bandwidth will result in a poor-quality experience, as most audio and video will not play smoothly, leading to many interruptions in the content being played. Of course, having enough bandwidth to utilize IPTV and Streaming TV is an additional cost (and, often, a significant cost that can cost $50-$100+ per month or even more) that is not needed with traditional cable and satellite TV.
With cable and satellite TV, you don’t have to have an Internet connection to utilize these services; you just have to sign up for a service, allow their technicians to come to your home and install the dish and/or boxes and cables, then sit back and enjoy the service. Therefore, there is only one cost, but it can be an inefficient cost, being that you get many channels you won’t watch, while potentially not getting channels you want to see, but having to pay more money to get access to those.
One other disadvantage with satellite TV is that, due to the position of the satellite in Earth’s orbit, the transmission of the content will be interrupted two times per year by what is called “sun outage,” as the sun gets directly in between the satellite and the satellite dish for about ten minutes near midday. This issue does not impact other services such as cable, IPTV, or streaming TV because they don’t utilize a satellite to transmit the content to subscribers.
In any case, after a careful research, a TV service user can make some conclusion in order to select what is the best TV service option for her/him.