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It was all so simple in the 1970s. Your television sat in the corner of the living room, with content broadcast at times chosen by the owners of each channel. Huge audience figures were generated by the desire to see programs that were rarely repeated, and few people had video recorders to watch broadcasts at their own convenience. Also, the limited number of broadcasters meant original content was thin on the ground.

Today, we live in a world of choice encapsulated by internet protocol television. Numerous television services are broadcast over the internet, and decoded by a domestic IPTV box. Programmes can be automatically set to record, as well as paused and rewound during playback, while a great deal of content is also subsequently accessible on demand. Audiences can choose exactly when (and where) they want to watch a particular piece of television first broadcast during the last seven days – or even longer ago.

DTH Rivals IPTV

In many ways, a DTH service represents the most natural rival to the IPTV box in the corner. Direct To Home is the term given to satellite TV, which borrows aspects of the old terrestrial broadcasting model while offering far greater technical quality and choice of programming. Twin-feed inputs allow one channel to record while watching a second, and there are several shared elements with IPTV, including on-demand content and interactive services.

Each platform has its merits, and industry experts are divided about which represents the best option. One of the arguments against DTH is the potential loss of signal due to bad weather or hardware failures, whereas an IPTV box can only be affected by problems with domestic internet connections. However, in areas with patchy internet access, that can be a significant problem in its own right. Research agency GrowthPraxis identified a number of technical factors currently hindering the uptake of IPTV, including the lack of high-speed cabling that can provide the minimum 2Mpbs speed required for reliable content provision.

DTH’s Independence vs IPTV’s Economies of Scale

A 2014 analysis by DEN Networks acknowledged that DTH currently has the advantage of customizable packages, rather than the all-or-nothing service offered by most IPTV providers. There is also no need for a middleman between broadcaster and consumer, whereas IPTV requires an ISP to act as a bridge, further increasing costs. In this respect, DTH can represent better value for money, particularly as an IPTV box or internet-enabled television can be much more expensive than having a satellite dish and set-top box installed.

Conversely, DTH is a standalone service that is paid for independently of other domestic communications platforms. Industry observers point out that one IPTV box can deliver triple-play services of voice, data, and TV using shared infrastructure and a single account. The economies of scale generated by this can be compelling, particularly as prices are pushed down by ever-more fierce competition among providers to ‘lock in’ consumers with triple-play packages. Greater customer acquisition and retention through package deals could whittle away at DTH’s market share, reducing its long-term viability.

A survey last autumn by J.D. Power in America suggested that customer satisfaction with IPTV is rising rapidly, having already eclipsed levels achieved by rival cable services. According to J.D. Power’s senior director Kirk Parsons, “Performance and reliability is the most critical driver of overall satisfaction”. As domestic connection speeds increase, and issues like network loss or buffering dwindle, it seems that IPTV is in pole position to win the broadcasting wars in the coming years.

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