DTT vs. IPTV: Why the evolving DTT platform is giving broadcasters and viewers more choice

The question on many broadcasters’ lips is that of DTT or IP streaming. But why does it have to be either/or? Is there a more connected approach?

Linear TV still accounts for 80% of viewing in the UK, but increasingly viewers expect access to catch-up, on-demand and premium subscription content too.

Linear TV still accounts for 80% of viewing in the UK, but increasingly viewers expect access to catch-up, on-demand and premium subscription content too.

Digital terrestrial television (DTT) and internet protocol television (IPTV) have their own unique benefits – that much should be abundantly clear. Where they’re used in tandem, though, the consumer proposition becomes significantly more attractive.

IP delivered services have gained much interest over recent years, with the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime continuing to grow their subscriber bases, IP is providing a great way to deliver premium content as part of a subscription package that wouldn’t typically be made available on free-to-air (FTA).

In my recent blog about the continued importance of linear TV, I also mentioned how the importance of on-demand and catch up services should not be underestimated. IPTV is adding to the viewer experience by offering a great platform to deliver these types of services as well as niche subscription content.

Ultimately, the amount of content available to consumers now is vast, but what content they access and how they access it should be their choice and seamless.

DTT versus IPTV

There are plenty of people out there who would assert that DTT is the king of content, though this is a rather bold claim. In fact, there would be plenty of different groups vying for viewer attention that would disagree! Take the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime, which may be new entrants to the market but have the financial clout to attract subscriptions from traditional TV viewers with exclusive deals on the latest and greatest box sets.

However, to me this still seems more complementary to the current viewing habits, rather than substitutional.

Also, IP works as a way of delivering premium content as part of a subscription package which you wouldn't make available on free-to-air. To put it in context, the cost of broadcasting everything today carried on DTT as IP would be extremely prohibitive, so why would you do that? Free-to-air IP services have struggled a little bit in their own right. But if you're a particularly niche or specialist broadcaster to a particular or specialist audience then it works.

Will on-demand services make a move?

The success of on-demand services like Netflix has prompted many to ask whether they would make the jump to linear TV. They clearly have the resources, as well as a comprehensive catalogue of quality content. However, in the UK you’d need some kind of pay enabler for them to monetise their premium content. The big players are already paying a vast amount to acquire rights to the latest and greatest shows, so there’s almost no chance of them going free-to-air.

That said, there’s potential for some kind of ‘snacking service’ for DTT customers to buy a dongle that would provide access, or get an unlock code for IP streams. This benefits the DTT audience as it supplements (not sacrifices) their existing service.

DTT to underpin future TV services

DTT and IP – for my money – complement one another perfectly. Linear TV still accounts for 80% of viewing in the UK, but increasingly viewers expect access to catch-up, on-demand and premium subscription content too.

You’d be hard pushed to argue against the unequivocal success of DTT, especially when operators like BT and TalkTalk include DTT as part of their YouView propositions.

Also, Sky has, for the first time, included a DTT tuner in their new NOW TV Smart Box. This is a further indication of the significance of DTT. With DTT underpinning a hybrid proposition to consumers, paid for content will be available on a subscription basis via IP, sitting alongside the free-to-air (FTA) content - not replacing them.

These services above, alongside last year’s launch of Freeview Play, signal a significant trend towards the hybrid DTT-IPTV model, where DTT underpins the wider IP proposition to consumers.

Hybrid services are enabling consumers to pick and choose the best premium content (e.g. box sets, live sports and films) with subscriptions or one-off charges, whilst still getting the excellent range of FTA channels that they, and their families, have always loved on DTT. I think that’s quite exciting!

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