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Also referred to as IPTV, Internet protocol television is a process in which television programming is provided by way of a connection to the Internet. This type of Internet television encompasses many different strategies, including some proprietary methods that involve simultaneously broadcasting programming online, via cable and satellite, and over the air. At other times, Internet protocol television provides the means whereby individual stations receive feeds from larger networks and in turn make that programming available to viewers in various forms.
Internet protocol television makes use of online capabilities to provide viewers with both the audio and the visual components of the programming. In some cases, the ability to view television programming online is possible only after that programming has been transmitted via more traditional means. For example, a television program may be broadcast over the air, and transmitted to cable and satellite subscribers first, then made available via the Internet. With this approach, viewers can access the program later the same evening, the next day, or for as long as online access to that program is maintained. Providing the programming in several different formats, including the delayed webcast, is often referred to as a multicast.
A second approach involves streaming media over the Internet at the same time that the programming is provided over the air, via cable, or through a satellite service. This method is known as a simulcast, since the programming is being provided in multiple formats simultaneously. As the concept of web television has gained in popularity, a number of television stations have made use of this approach, making it possible for people to enjoy at least some of their favorite programs via handheld devices or laptops while others are watching the same programming using more traditional means.
Today, a number of web sites provide Internet protocol television that includes a mixture of classic television programming along with new programs that are either shown live or with a short delay. Some of these online sites make use of public domain archives, allowing viewers to enjoy episodes of television programs that are now in the public domain. Thanks to the development of equipment that makes it possible to connect a computer with an active Internet connection to a standard television, viewers who are unhappy with cable or satellite services can now augment local over the air programming with Internet protocol television fare. Doing so makes it possible to still enjoy access to a wide range of program selections, and involves relatively little expense in comparison to other methods.