The cord cutting revolution has led to a lot of new technologies and new terms – including some on the cable/ISP side of things. Among the new technologies at play is IPTV. What is IPTV? Read on and we'll explain.

Cable is dying, and streaming is growing. That's the basic formula that drives the cord cutting revolution. As more and more content becomes available through streaming services like Netflix and Sling TV, it gets harder and harder to justify paying for bloated cable packages full of content you don't actually watch.

But cable companies aren't just standing pat while the market moves out from under them. They've responded to pressure from their customers by improving their set-top boxes and attempting to integrate streaming services.

What IPTV Is and How It Works

IPTV stands for Internet Protocol Television. That first part – IP – is the same IP as in “IP address.” To put it as simply as possible, IPTV is TV that comes in via internet connection rather than by the traditional cables that give “cable” TV its name.

Essentially, the principle is similar to streaming apps like Sling TV or YouTube – you're sending packets of information over the internet to create streaming video.

The major difference between OTT and IPTV is that IPTV generally refers to a system with a dedicated infrastructure. In other words, OTT solutions like Netflix use your existing internet connection, and those OTT companies are not in the ISP business. IPTV, on the other hand, would be delivered by your ISP on a managed, proprietary network.

Using internet infrastructure instead of cable infrastructure has its advantages. It makes it possible to interact with viewers and integrate OTT solutions, which we'll talk a bit more about below.

IPTV as It Exists Today

IPTV already exists, of course. Several big cable companies have IPTV solutions or are moving towards the idea. Canada's largest cable companies are investing in the technology. U.S.-based Comcast has already entered the market with their Stream TV service, which is being tested out in limited markets.

Why does IPTV represent an improvement over cable? The big reason is that it offers more ways for users to interact with their content. With IPTV, it's easier to integrate OTT solutions and offer new ways to viewers to respond to and control their content. Those OTT solutions can, of course, include VOD options available from the ISP/cable company itself.

There's also the potential for IPTV to be a more customizable experience, perhaps freeing users from the tyranny of the jumbo bundle and allowing cable companies to better compete with skinny bundles and OTT services. Comcast's Stream TV is trying to do exactly this – in its limited test release, it has cost $15/month with no contract involved. Stream TV includes Comcast's video on demand content, plus HBO and live cable network channels.

There are also, of course, net neutrality implications to consider here. Since the ISP is also the company providing the IPTV, there's a potential for non-neutral practices like enacting data caps that exempt the IPTV service – something the folks at Comcast (of course!) have already figured out.

Will IPTV save pay TV companies? That remains to be seen. It still shares some of the same problems as other pay TV services, including infrastructure requirements and huge monopolies. But it does show that cable companies and ISPs will not stand pat while the world changes around them.