Comparison between OTT and IPTV
OTT (Over the Top Technology) and IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) are two growing technology mediums in the media distribution industry that are in place in the market, yet not being used to their full capacity by advertisers or the critical mass.
Both are systems through which television services are delivered using the Internet, instead of the traditional terrestrial, satellite signal and cable television formats. However there are several differences between the two, mainly that IPTV is delivered over a service provider’s own infrastructure, while OTT comes over the public Internet.
Over-the-top content (OTT) describes broadband delivery of video and audio without a multiple system operator being involved in the control or distribution of the content itself. The provider may be aware of the contents of the IP packets but is not responsible for, nor able to control, the viewing abilities, copyrights, and/or other redistribution of the content. This is in contrast to purchase or rental of video or audio content from an Internet provider, such as pay television video on demand or an IPTV video service, like AT&T U-Verse. OTT in particular refers to content that arrives from a third party, such as NowTV, Netflix, DittoTv, WhereverTV, Hulu, Emagine or myTV, and is delivered to an end user device, leaving the ISP responsible only for transporting IP packets.
Internet Protocol television IPTV is a system through which television services are delivered using the Internet protocol suite over a packet-switched network such as the Internet, instead of being delivered through traditional terrestrial, satellite signal, and cable television formats.
IPTV services may be classified into three main groups:
- live television, with or without interactivity related to the current TV show;
- time-shifted television: catch-up TV (replays a TV show that was broadcast hours or days ago), start-over TV (replays the current TV show from its beginning);
- video on demand (VOD): browse a catalog of videos, not related to TV programming.
IPTV is distinguished from Internet television by its on-going standardization process (e.g., European Telecommunications Standards Institute) and preferential deployment scenarios in subscriber-based telecommunications networks with high-speed access channels into end-user premises via set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment.
The main difference between OTT and IPTV is that though both use internet, OTT streaming is delivered through open unmanaged internet, while IPTV use a dedicated, managed network. 
OTT has been gaining widespread popularity over the past two years with relatively low cost service providers like Netflix, Hulu, myTV and many more, and provides more freedom, convenience and empowerment to users which gives a greater role for content providers to have a direct relationship with viewers.
Comparison table between OTT and IPTV
|OTT (Over the Top Technology)||IPTV (Internet Protocol Television)|
|Content Delivery||Uses open internet, unmanaged network "open ecosystem"||Uses dedicated, managed network. "Walled Garden ecosystem"|
|Network Type||Delivered from the provider/content aggregator to the viewer using open network||Closed, proprietary network, accessed via a specific internet service provider|
|Network Ownership||Without the need for intervening carriage negotiations, or infrastructure investments||Services are optimized and customized to suit the network and end-device capability|
|Quality of Service (QOS)||Not guaranteed, works under best effort conditions||Enables control over quality of delivery|
|Examples||Popular Video on demand services like Sky Go, YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Lovefilm, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, myTV etc.||Service Example includes U-verse (AT&T), PrismTV (Century Link)|
|Protocol||Delivered using HTTP (TCP), a connected transport protocol. Emerging trends using adaptive streaming technologies like HLS (Apple), Smooth Streaming (Microsoft) and HDS (Adobe). Delivered content over UDP in combination with FEC (Octoshape)||Traditional IPTV uses TS (transport stream) transmission technology. Delivers content over UDP in combination with FEC (Octoshape), connectionless protocol|
|Content Catalog||Widely used for freemium and economical VOD delivery models||Used primarily for premium content and real time content delivery like broadcasting TV|
|Content Type||Premium Content||Premium Content|
|Routing Topology||Unicast (Based on HTTP) or Simulated Multicast (UDP/TCP)||Multicast, Unicast burst during channel change leading multicast join|
|Category||Complementary Service||Parallel service catefory to Cable/Satellite|
|Major Players||OVP (Kaltura, Brightcove, Ooyala), CDN Players (Akamai, L3, Limelight, Octoshape, Tata Communications) and Content Aggregators||TSP and IPTV Platform vendors - Microsoft Mediaroom (Ericsson), Alu, Cisco,ZTE|
|Key Challenges||Low quality, Non Premium Content No Live Broadcast, Unicast model||Expensive, Competition from Cable/ DTH industry, Bandwidth and Infrastructure|
|Key Benefits||Low cost, Flexibility of content consumption across devices||Interactive Service, Quality of Service and Quality of Experience|
OTT or IPTV?
Although IPTV is currently more widespread than OTT, tech analysts speculate OTT to take over IPTV in a few years time. This has already happened in the UK, however it is not likely in France where IPTV is very popular and subscribers account for around 25% of the population (10.25 million people). However, differences between the two are said to eventually fade in a few years as OTT's development will eventually be replaced by a high-quality public service, rather than the 'walled garden' it is in now, supported by "successful low-subscription operators such as Netflix or free content services, such as BBC iPlayer in the UK".
Studies show that in Western Europe, the number of households "cutting the cord" to use IPTV will increase from 9.2 million to 11.33 million (8.9% growth) between 2013 and 2018, while OTT will just account for 5.6 million pay-TV services.
Some companies such as Informa Telecoms and Media claimed that by 2015 the number of people watching online videos through devices such as TVs, game stations and set-top boxes will be more than double the number of IPTV subscribers. Based on their forecast of the UK market, IPTV is said to be reduced to being used by 3.6 million as, OTT will rise to nearly $3 billion in 2014. 
The Broadband World Forum based their research worldwide. In Europe, France and Belgium already have maturing IPTV territories. Asia improved at 50% growth rate in 2011, and in the Middle East and Africa there was a 63.5% percentage growth. SNL Kagan estimated that between 2010 and 2013, there will be a jump from 46.2 million to almost 60 million people who will be using IPTV worldwide.
Pyramid Research stated that IPTV service reached $11.8 billion and increased 45% between 2009 and 2010. Through their research, the firm expects IPTV service revenue to increase at 25%, tripling by 2015. This will mean that IPTV will represent 15% of the total pay-TV revenue in 2015, rather than the 6% of today.
However it is generally accepted that the smartest route companies have taken would be to accommodate the needs of both IPTV and OTT users, like ABOX42 which showcased its new set-top box the M12 in January 2013, which works with both services.
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- "OTT and IPTV to drive pay TV growth in western Europe". Digital TV Europe. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- OSP Staff. "OTT Versus IPTV". OSP World. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- Phelps, Kay. "OTT TV viewers to outnumber IPTV viewers in 2013". Informa Media Centre. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
- "ABOX42 Showcases its Leading OTT and IPTV Set-top Box for the First Time at CES in Las Vegas". ABOX42. Retrieved 13 September 2013.