Broadcast TV via the Internet

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Tablets and smartphones could end up as the place to watch TV and you don’t need a tuner module

I have noticed that every traditional TV broadcaster that is running a “catch-up TV” platform is now streaming their regular TV channels live over the Internet using this platform. It is primarily pitched at those of us who use smartphones, tablets or laptops to view TV content “on the road” without the need for a TV-tuner module or broadcast-LAN tuner box and, in some ways, is being seen as TV’s equivalent to Internet radio.

Local content and advertising

This has opened up a can of worms when it comes to the kind of content available for people to view on their mobile devices, including the issue of regional content. In Australia, for example, the live-TV-over-Internet service primarily offers what is being broadcast to the metropolitan areas for the state capitals and this is ruffling local feathers when it comes to broadcasting news and public-affairs content relevant to the regional areas or providing airtime for local businesses to advertise their wares.

One of the core issues concerning the “live-TV-over-Internet” will be the locality of the editorial and advertising content including where is the content “local to”. If you listen to a foreign radio station’s Internet-radio stream using your Internet radio, you will know what this is about because of the talk and advertising that is local to that station’s city and there are people who like this either as a foreign-language learning tool or to acquire the “fabric” of that city if they lived there or have a soft spot for that area.

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This issue regarding TV could be rectified using streams that represent an area’s key markets and these streams have editorial and advertising content representative to those markets. The use of dynamic-ad-insertion technology would earn its keep with local campaigns being ran in the commercial breaks which could ameliorate the issues associated with local businesses not able to advertise their wares to their markets.

Area-specific rights issues

An issue that will impact “live-TV-over-Internet” will be area-specific rights for broadcast content. This is where a broadcaster buys exclusive rights to exhibit a particular sports fixture, movie or TV show in a geographic area, especially on a first-run basis. Typically these rights will be protected with

There will be the broadcast and customer-service issues being raised because a show normally available on a particular channel is not shown due to it conflicting with a local network’s existing rights.

Internet-only TV services

Another issue yet to come forward is the ability to gain access to “Internet-only” TV broadcasters which will come about as “live-TV-over-Internet” gains momentum. Such broadcasters are received primarily via your Internet service without having an over-the-air or cable/satellite presence.

These will manifest in the form of extra channels offered by a traditional broadcaster but not on the traditional broadcast platform, or an Internet-only broadcaster who would be able to run boutique content cheaply and easily due to low onboarding costs.

The issue that will show up with running an “Internet-only” TV service is how easy is it for potential viewers to discover these services especially if the goal is to run a scheduled-content service.

Content discovery

Another issue will be whether Internet TV will kill the traditional “channel-surfing” or “flicking” experience where viewers often flicked around the TV’s channel selector or jabbed the channel buttons on the remote control to look for something to watch. This is the main method where a lot of users discover newer radio and TV content. The current implementation would require you to run one catch-up TV / VOD app and browse the channels the broadcaster is offering, then run another app offered by another broadcaster and browse those channels to get the “lay of the land”.

This may be rectified through the use of a directory service similar to what has existed for Internet radio. Here, this could allow for a “channel-surf” experience along with the ability to browse for channels that offer content based on genres or other factors. Such a directory could be part of an electronic programme guide which encompasses all of the broadcasters and may work in conjunction with network or cloud PVR setups.

With Internet radio, multiple providers like vTuner and TuneIn Radio had set up to provide access to the Internet-radio streams, both those of AM/FM/digital broadcasters and of Internet-only stations. This means that an Internet radio or a mobile app would effectively have the same directory and different set manufacturers even had the ability to “brand” their own directories so as to be part of their user experience. This could then apply to Internet-based TV with different ISPs, smart-TV platform vendors, Websites and others running or licensing Internet-TV directories.

PVR recording

An issue that will also crop up is the concept of PVR recording of TV shows streamed via an Internet-based TV service. This will most likely be facilitated via an EPG so you can choose the shows from a programme grid or “what’s showing” list.

This could be achieved via a local-storage effort such as a traditional set-top device or a NAS that serves the home network; or a cloud-based effort based on the “software-as-a-service” model.

As what has happened with video recorders and traditional PVR devices, there will be the need to sort out copyright issues regarding the recording of shows. The new landscape in the context of “PVR as a service” will be highlighted in this context is the concept of “shared recordings” where one recording is made and many viewers view that single copy; or “private recordings” where each household has its own copies of the TV shows in a “digital locker” on the servers. Similarly, another issue that will show up is the portability of these recordings especially if the recordings are taken across national borders which would be a key issue in areas like North America or Europe.

The issue of portable recordings will come to the fore with us using mobile devices or a TV at another location like a friend’s home or a hotel to catch up on favourite TV shows.


What is becoming a reality is that television as we knew it is appearing via the Internet in addition to or in lieu of traditional broadcast-based pathways.

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