Television Broadcast Technologies

Traditional television broadcasts since the inception of the television have been "Linear." A person viewing a linear broadcast has no control over what is being viewed other than to be able to change channels and adjust the volume and display settings. Everyone watching a particular linear broadcast will see the same thing at the same time. To this day, the majority of television broadcasts are linear.

Pay TV is a form of linear broadcast channel that is only available to paying customers. Pay TV channels are available to cable and Satellite customers on top of their basic channels, for an additional subscription fee (on top of whatever fee they may be paying for their basic access).

A new technology called "Pay Per View" (PPV) or "Conditional Access" was first introduced in the 1970s and became commonly available on cable and satellite networks in the early 1990s. Pay per View allows the viewer/customer to select a particular show and watch it on their television set for a fee. The channel containing the Pay per View feed is then unlocked, permitting the viewer/customer to watch the broadcast for a limited amount of time (generally the running time of the broadcast). In all other aspects, Pay per View is in fact a linear broadcast, with a set broadcast schedule.

Video on Demand (VOD), is a newer technology first introduced in 1990 and only available on digital cable and satellite networks. VOD works similarly to PPV such that viewers/customers may select a particular show and watch it on their television for a fee. Unlike PPV, VOD is however not a linear broadcast, the viewer may select when the showing will begin, they may pause, rewind and fast-forward the viewing. VOD networks typically operate on one of three business models, or a mixture of these.
  • Free on Demand is a free offering from your cable provider, it may or may not be ad sponsored like regular broadcast TV.
  • Subcription VOD (SVOD) costs a flat monthly fee regardless of how many shows you watch. Similar to pay TV.
  • Transactional VOD charges a viewing fee for each show that a viewer "purchases." Similar to pay per view.
Some networks charge both a subscription fee and viewing fee. However, most VOD providers permit the viewer to view a show as many times as they want during a 24-hour period, while PPV only permits one viewing. Technically, Video on Demand is not a broadcast technology as the provider is not sending the same signal to all viewers simultaneously.

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