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Internet Live TV

There are advantages and disadvantages to watching live television over the Internet.

Computer users can watch TV via the Internet. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Computer users can watch TV via the Internet.

Internet Live TV

Internet Live TV refers to real-time streaming video broadcasts of live television stations on the Internet. Delivery methods for Internet Live TV vary according to available technology.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) is a file-sharing networking technology that allows computer users to open their hard drives to other users without having to go through an Internet database or a server. Internet Live TV broadcasts have been made possible through technologies like BitTorrent, an Internet protocol for distributing large media files to multiple users on a P2P network. This includes real-time transfers of large video files. The chief criticism of P2P live television broadcasts is that the technology allows for easy access to unregulated broadcasts, enabling the risk of the pirating of protected programming content. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) supports Digital Broadcast Content Protection or "Broadcast Flag," a policy that requires manufacturers of PCs that receive digital television signals to help prevent the distribution of recorded television shows through P2P networks.

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is defined as digital television content delivered live on the Web using the standard delivery of Internet data files transmitted over a packet-switched connection of computer networks. It may also refer to a digital television transmission delivered on a television through a high-speed broadband Internet connection or through a set-top box linked to and encoded in an Internet Protocol format. Unlike P2P TV, IPTV provides a private walled garden network controlled by the user's telecommunications service provider.

Webcasting is the live delivery of media files over the Internet using streaming media technology. Most major television broadcasters, such as Current TV, C-SPAN, CNN and Fox News, have offered Internet broadcasts of live events like President Barack Obama's inauguration. Many television stations from around the world are broadcast live 24/7 and are accessible through live TV webcast aggregator websites. For example, WWITV features an extensive collection of links to live international television broadcasts from countries that include remote locations like Afghanistan, El Salvador, Macedonia and the Faroe Islands. BeelineTV.com is another Internet Live TV global aggregator website. FindInternetTV.com offers a searchable online database of live television broadcasts from around the world.

The disadvantages of Internet-delivered live television include Internet delivery glitches due to slower or failed connections. For example, C-SPAN's website warns about pulsing, flickering or intermittent video and audio in its live streaming television delivery.

There can also be transmission conflicts due to the presence of other types of Internet technologies such as pop-up and spam blockers, as well as protective data firewalls used by Internet Service Providers or corporate networks.

A chief advantage of Internet-delivered live television broadcasting is that the technology drastically reduces startup and delivery costs for small broadcasters. For example, Ustream.TV is a live interactive video broadcast service that enables anyone with a camera and an Internet connection to quickly and easily broadcast to an unlimited worldwide audience. Another advantage of Internet Live TV is that broadcasts can be seen by viewers with compatible mobile devices anywhere and at anytime.

Internet Live TV Applications

There are several types of online applications that provide Internet Live TV, such as:

Livestation is a peer-to-peer (P2P) live television broadcast application that was developed by Microsoft and Skinkers and is part of the Microsoft Silverlight platform. Microsoft defines Silverlight as a cross-browser platform for the delivery of Internet-based media including high-definition video coupled with cost-effective streaming technology. Livestations world television broadcast partners include BBC World News, Al-Jazeera, C-Span and Bloomberg Television. Its user-friendly features include instant live chat with other viewers watching Livestation programming.

TVU Player is a P2P TV application developed in China. Mostly Asian channels are broadcast live via the TVU Player, with the exception of North American stations like CBS, Fox News and SpikeTV.

AT&T U-verse delivers high-definition live television broadcasts using Internet networking IPTV technology rather than cable delivery. U-verse also delivers video content from all parts of the Internet to the user's television. A chief feature of AT&T's U-verse service is its so-called Triple Play delivery, where television broadcasts, high-speed Internet services and locally available phone services are all delivered through the same set-top box.

Adobe AIR (Adobe Integrated Runtime) is a development platform for Internet applications including Adobe's Flash multimedia application. DirecTV uses the Adobe Flash Player through the AIR platform to deliver live online television broadcasts of NFL football. Other Adobe technologies used for the live NFL Internet broadcasts include Adobe Flex for the video playbacks that have long been an integral part of professional football broadcasting. Fox News has its own live streaming video player that uses Adobes AIR technology. Live interactive video broadcast service Ustream.TV is also powered by Adobe Flash Media Interactive Server technology.

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