What Is IPTV and How Does it Work?

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is the delivery of TV programming via the internet. Unlike traditional television, IPTV enables two-way interactivity between the user and the TV provider. Therefore, users can choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch it, i.e., Video on Demand (VOD).

John Doe

11/24/20194 min read

familly watching an iptv service
familly watching an iptv service

Two decades ago, TV viewing was dictated solely by cable and satellite TVs. I had no flexibility in watching what was broadcasted when it aired, whatever the show’s schedule for broadcasting. If I missed one of my favorite shows, then that meant either setting back all plans or staying up late to catch a rerun airing at an ungodly hour.

Fast forward twenty years, with the proliferation of faster internet speeds, I am now liberated from the shackles of scheduled programming. This “liberation” has given rise to the famous phrase, “cord-cutting,” which is simply switching from traditional cable and satellite TV broadcast to IPTV.

1 What is IPTV and how does it work?

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is the delivery of TV programming via the internet. Unlike traditional television, IPTV enables two-way interactivity between the user and the TV provider. Therefore, users can choose what they want to watch and when they want to watch it, i.e., Video on Demand (VOD).

Traditional TV broadcasts content in real-time, whereas IPTV utilizes servers that store broadcasted content. When a user requests a TV show, the content stored on the servers is transcoded to a digital format, sent in packets via the internet, received at the user’s location, and transcoded back into a format that the user’s TV can read and output.

If the user’s TV cannot transcode the digital format, it becomes necessary to have a set-top box connected to the TV via HDMI or AV cables. The set-top box transcodes the digital format and then sends the content onwards to the TV.

2 IPTV Categories

IPTV can broadly be categorized into the following content formats:

 Time Shifted-TV

This allows users to watch previously broadcasted content such as sports events, conferences, political debates, etc. This content is generally only available for a few days after broadcast before being phased out by the IPTV provider.


Live TV allows the streaming of live television broadcasts straight to the user. This is quite popular with live sporting events, historic occasions, or even live breaking news.

*Video on Demand

Video on demand is simply the access to an extensive library of video content that the user can request to watch at will. This works pretty much the same as with other OTT providers such as Netflix or Hulu.

3 IPTV Platforms and Devices:

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) has witnessed significant growth in recent years, with various platforms catering to different user preferences. Among the most used platforms are Roku, Amazon Fire TV, NVIDIA Shield TV, Apple TV and even windows devices collectively dominating a substantial portion of the market. According to recent statistics:

  • Amazon Fire TV Stick and Roku are among the top-selling streaming devices globally, with millions of units sold annually.

  • Roku has over 51.2 million active accounts as of Q4 2021, showcasing its widespread adoption.

  • Amazon Fire TV has seen a surge in popularity, with its user base growing by over 50% year-over-year.

  • NVIDIA Shield TV, known for its robust performance and gaming capabilities, continues to attract users seeking high-quality streaming experiences.

  • Apple TV remains a popular choice among users invested in the Apple ecosystem, with consistent updates and integration with other Apple devices.

Moreover, smart TVs equipped with built-in IPTV capabilities are gaining traction, with manufacturers like Samsung, LG, and Sony incorporating IPTV functionality into their latest models. With the increasing availability of affordable streaming devices and smart TVs, IPTV is becoming more accessible to a broader audience, driving its continued growth and adoption worldwide.

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What is the drawback of IPTV?

From where I stand, the only potential drawback of IPTV is the latency that sometimes occurs, especially when watching live sports. On occasion, I found out that my favorite soccer team had scored a goal one full minute after the fact due to my stream lagging. However, this is a small price to pay for having the freedom to watch what I want when I want at a far lower cost than traditional TV.

Essential Tips for Choosing the Best IPTV Provider

  1. Reliability and Stability: Look for providers with a track record of uptime and minimal buffering. Aim for a provider with at least 99% uptime and a low buffering rate, ideally below 1%.

  2. Channel Variety and Quality: Seek providers offering a diverse selection of channels. A reputable provider should offer hundreds or even thousands of channels, including popular live TV, sports, and international channels, all in high-definition quality.

  3. On-Demand Content: Choose a provider that offers a robust library of on-demand content. Look for platforms with tens of thousands of on-demand titles, covering a wide range of genres and interests.

  4. Customer Support: Opt for providers with responsive customer support teams. Look for providers that offer 24/7 customer support via multiple channels, such as live chat, email, and phone. Ensure that response times are quick, ideally within a few hours or less.

  5. Security and Privacy: Prioritize providers that prioritize user security and privacy. Look for platforms that use industry-standard encryption protocols, such as AES-256, to protect your data. Additionally, choose providers that have strict privacy policies and do not collect unnecessary user information.

    By considering these tips and looking for providers that meet these criteria, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable IPTV experience.


Since the early 2000s, IPTV has been steadily rising, and it shows no signs of slowing down. And as our internet speeds and latencies continue to improve over time in response to new technology developments like 5G, we’ll see IPTV become even more pervasive than ever before.