What is the difference between IPTV and OTT?

TL; DR: OTT, short for Over the Top, provides content over the Internet without the need for cable or satellite and IPTV, short for Internet Protocol Television, also transmits content over the Internet but using a dedicated and managed network. Contrary to OTT, IPTV requires a special set-up box and a broadband connection.

Video streaming over the internet has grown rapidly and this trend will continue to expand. Although many people may believe that all videos over the internet are transmitted in the same way, the truth is that this is not the case. Videos over the Internet can be offered in different ways, among them we can name IPTV and OTT.

If you do not work in a television channel or in the video delivery industry, it is very likely that you have never heard these terms, but it is also very likely that, without knowing it, you have been using these services for many years now.

But what are these technologies and how do they work? In this article, we will explain it to you.

Difference between IPTV and OTT

IPTV is actually a protocol. It is Internet Protocol Television. In short, it is television programming that is being transmitted over the internet to be received on a dedicated device. Boxes and televisions that include IPTV services will allow you to access traditional TV channels such as CBS, CNN, FOX, HBO, etc. IPTV has an advantage over downloaded media and that is that it allows streaming directly from the source, in smaller file sizes (something very technical that would require another article to fully explain).

Most likely after reading this, you will probably think that services like Netflix or Disney plus are also IPTV, but this is not the reality. These services are actually based on OTT (Over-The-Top) technology. Are you confused? Do not worry, here we will try to clarify the differences.

The difference, basically, is that OTT services are based on the distribution of VOD, better known as video on demand. OTT is a concept that arises as an alternative to cable or satellite television, seeking a new way to provide content to the audiences and includes all video content that can be distributed over the internet without the need for a service TV provider. The only thing necessary is a subscription to the service, in case it is a paid one.

IPTV vs OTT, main advantages and disadvantages

For IPTV services, a private distribution network is used and managed by the telecommunications operator and this factor determines its great advantages, such as the quality of image and sound (usually without interruptions) thanks to the complexity and capacity of the infrastructure, as well as the bandwidth reserved exclusively for the streaming. The big drawback is that a signal decoder (box) is necessary, in addition to the essential Internet connection in any service of this type.

On the other hand, OTT video streaming services are based on a public Internet connection. This implies that anyone can have access to it. By having a low infrastructure cost, OTT service prices are also more accessible. In addition, they have another great advantage and that is the simplicity of installation since all you need is a device connected to the Internet to play the content.

OTT’s biggest problem is that the quality of the service is subject to the speed of the end user’s internet connection, which can result in an unpleasant experience when the contents start to be cut by buffering.

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