Lesson 1. Beginner’s guide to Broadcasting

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Welcome to Lesson 1 of the Beginner’s Guide to Broadcast, where we will introduce you to the basics of the broadcast ecosystem and the terminology used in the industry. Whether you are a content creator, a service provider, or a consumer, understanding how broadcast works will help you make better decisions and optimize your experience.

In this lesson, we will cover three articles that will give you an overview of the broadcast ecosystem, its main components, and its terminology. By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain the difference between push and pull systems, and how they affect video distribution
  • Identify the key elements of OTT systems, such as ingest, conversion, DRM, DAI, packaging, edge processing, ISP, IXPs, QoE monitoring, and client applications
  • Define the terms Live, Linear, and Video On Demand TV, and how they relate to different types of content and consumption patterns
  • Understand the acronyms SVOD, AVOD, FAST, OTT, and more, and how they describe different business models and service offerings in the streaming industry

Main Concepts of the Broadcast Ecosystem

The broadcast ecosystem is a complex network of technologies and processes that enable the delivery of audiovisual content to audiences. In this lesson, we will explore the main components of the broadcast ecosystem, from transmission to consumption, and discuss the differences between push and pull systems, video distribution methods and the terminology of live, linear and video on demand TV.

Transmission is the process of sending signals from a source to a destination. There are two main types of transmission systems: push and pull. Push systems are those where the content provider decides what content to send and when to send it, without any input from the user. Examples of push systems are terrestrial, satellite and cable TV. Pull systems are those where the user requests the content they want to watch, and the content provider delivers it on demand. Examples of pull systems are internet streaming services and video on demand platforms.

Video distribution is the process of delivering the content to the user’s device. There are different methods of video distribution, depending on the type of transmission system and the device. For push systems, the content is usually delivered through a broadcast network, which is a dedicated infrastructure that carries the signals from the source to the user’s device. The user’s device needs a tuner or a receiver to decode the signals and display the content. For pull systems, the content is usually delivered through an internet network, which is a shared infrastructure that carries data packets from different sources to different destinations. The user’s device needs an internet connection and an application or a browser to request and display the content.

Content consumption

Television has evolved dramatically over the years, branching out into various forms of media consumption that cater to the diverse preferences of viewers. These can largely be compartmentalized into three main categories: live, linear, and video on demand (VOD) services.

Live TV represents the most traditional and immediate form of TV consumption. This mode of viewing is unique in its ability to connect viewers across the globe to events happening in real-time. Live streaming is particularly popular for watching significant events unfold as they happen – whether it’s the thrill of a live sports match, the timely reportage of news bulletins, or the unscripted moments in reality TV shows. The communal aspect of live TV allows audiences to experience and react to moments collectively, an attribute that’s often amplified through the use of social media platforms.

Linear TV follows the classic television format, where viewers tune in to their favorite channels that broadcast shows at set times throughout the day. This model has governed the TV industry for decades and is characterized by the use of an Electronic Program Guide (EPG), which helps viewers plan their schedule around their preferred content. Despite the rise of digital platforms, linear TV remains a staple in many households, partly because it offers a curated viewing experience, with television networks carefully selecting and scheduling programming to attract particular audience demographics at specific times.

Video on demand offers the most flexibility of the three, allowing viewers to select and watch content at their leisure, irrespective of any programming schedules. The rise of high-speed internet and the proliferation of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu have made VOD an increasingly popular choice among consumers. This platform caters to the modern viewer’s desire for instant gratification and the convenience of binge-watching full series, allowing a complete escape into the narrative without the interruption of waiting for weekly episodes or dealing with commercials.

In summary, the television landscape offers a variety of options suited to the differing needs and schedules of viewers worldwide. From the immediacy of live TV, the structured familiarity of linear programming, to the on-demand pleasure of VOD services, the choices are plentiful, making it an exciting time for content consumption. As technology continues to advance, it’s likely that these services will evolve even further, providing more innovative ways for audiences to enjoy their favorite media.

Key business models for media consumption.

The broadcast media system has several models for media consumption. Each model offers unique advantages and caters to different consumer preferences.

Steaming refers to the practice of watching or listening to content in real-time, rather than downloading a file to a device and playing it later. This model has become increasingly popular with the rise of high-speed internet and streaming services.

SVOD stands for Subscription Video On Demand. It’s a business model used by streaming services where users pay a recurring fee, usually monthly or annually, to access an unlimited amount of content. This model is similar to traditional TV packages and offers greater flexibility as consumers aren’t tied into long-term contracts. SVOD services like Netflix and Hulu have popularized the subscription-based model, providing a vast library of content for a monthly fee. This model prioritizes customer retention through quality and variety of content.

TVOD stands for Transactional Video On Demand. It’s a monetization model where viewers pay for individual pieces of content on a pay-per-view basis. There are two sub-categories within TVOD:

  • Electronic Sell-Through (EST): You pay once to gain permanent access to a piece of content.
  • Download to Rent (DTR): You access a piece of content for a limited time for a smaller fee

TVOD platforms such as iTunes and Google Play offer a pay-per-view approach, allowing users to rent or purchase individual movies or episodes. This model is ideal for consumers seeking specific content without long-term commitments.

AVOD stands for Advertising-Based Video On Demand. It’s a monetization model where content is provided for free to the viewers, but they are required to watch advertisements. AVOD services, including YouTube and Crackle, provide free access to content monetized through advertisements. This model has found success with cost-conscious viewers who don’t mind ad interruptions. AVOD services can also offer content at a discounted rate with ads, and some paid services like the cheaper tiers of Netflix and Hulu operate on this model as well.

Lastly, BVOD stands for Broadcast Video On Demand. It refers to content from traditional TV broadcasters that is made available online for viewers to consume at any time. BVOD services are offered by traditional broadcasters that extend their programming to online platforms, such as the BBC’s iPlayer and CBS All Access. This approach leverages existing brand loyalty and expands viewership beyond traditional TV audiences. The BVOD platforms often feature ads within their content to generate revenue, although the content is typically free for viewers. It’s part of the broader VOD (Video on Demand) ecosystem, which also includes SVOD, AVOD, and TVOD.

Understanding these models is crucial for content creators and distributors to navigate the competitive world of online streaming.

Distribution methods

Broadcast Over-The-Top (OTT) services are rapidly reshaping how audiences consume media, providing a wealth of content through various distribution methods designed to meet the needs of diverse viewer segments. Here is an expanded look into each of these methods and their unique characteristics:

Terrestrial: Often recognized as the origin of TV broadcasting, terrestrial television uses radio waves to send signals directly from television stations to home receivers. Its strength lies in its simplicity and widespread availability. Without the need for internet connectivity, terrestrial TV remains crucial in areas where digital infrastructure is still evolving. It’s a beacon of information and entertainment for those who live in regions that online services have yet to penetrate fully.

Satellite: By transmitting signals from space, satellite broadcasting has the remarkable capability to reach almost any location on the planet, as long as there is a direct line of sight between the satellite dish and the satellite in orbit. This makes it particularly valuable for delivering content to exceptionally remote areas where terrestrial networks might not reach, such as rural communities and isolated geographic locations. Moreover, satellite TV often offers a wide variety of international channels, making ideal for viewers interested in global programming.

Cable: For decades, cable TV has been a mainstay in homes around the world, known for its robust selection of channels and consistent service. The technology relies on a network of physical cables, which typically deliver a more stable connection compared to satellite during inclement weather. Bundling with other services such as high-speed internet and landline telephones makes cable a convenient all-in-one solution for household entertainment and communication needs.

Telco “IPTV”: By utilizing Internet Protocol (IP) technology, IPTV is able to offer a more dynamic and interactive user experience. Unlike traditional broadcast methods that send a uniform signal to all viewers, IPTV is stream-based, permitting a range of interactive features like pause, rewind, and fast-forward for live content, as well as extensive video-on-demand libraries. This technology caters to viewers who desire control over what they watch and when they watch it, satisfying the modern demand for flexibility and personalization.

OTT: Standing apart from traditional delivery methods, OTT platforms provide content streaming through the internet, circumventing the need for consumers to subscribe to satellite or cable services. With the proliferation of high-speed internet access, OTT services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video are gaining immense popularity for their convenience and rich content libraries. They empower viewers to consume media on a broad spectrum of devices, from smart TVs and computers to smartphones and tablets, revolutionizing the portability of entertainment.

In parallel with these technologies, both Free to air (FTA) and Pay-TV models exist, each with their distinct economic framework. FTA broadcasts are transmitted without encryption, allowing anyone with the appropriate receiving equipment to view the content without payment. In contrast, Pay-TV requires viewers to subscribe, usually through a monthly fee, granting access to exclusive, often higher-quality content.

Together, these dynamic distribution methods create a comprehensive ecosystem that provides consumers with unparalleled access to content. As technology and viewer preferences continue to evolve, the media landscape will undoubtedly innovate to meet the ever-changing demands of its audience.

From Transmission to Consumption – Evolution of Broadcast Ecosystem

The broadcast ecosystem has witnessed a remarkable journey from its early days of simple signal transmission to the current landscape dominated by consumer-driven content consumption. In the beginning, the industry was predominantly focused on the technical aspects of broadcasting—making sure that television and radio signals could travel over vast distances to reach households far and wide. The main goal was to ensure viewers and listeners could access the content, though their ability to influence or interact with it was virtually non-existent.

During these nascent stages, the technology that powered broadcasting was basic, and the content offerings were scarce. Transmission technology was designed largely for one-way communication. Stations broadcasted programs according to a rigid schedule, and audiences played a very passive role in the ecosystem. There was minimal interaction between the viewer and the broadcaster; the relationship was similar to that of a speaker and a listener, with the former controlling the flow of information and the latter merely consuming the broadcast signals.

However, the evolution of broadcasting began accelerating with the advent of digital technologies. The conversion from analog to digital broadcasting not only improved the quality of the content but also started to reshape the audience’s role in the ecosystem. Digital broadcasting enabled additional features such as interactivity and multi-platform distribution, which were unheard of in the analog era. Consumers were no longer passive recipients; they now had the ability to interact with the content through digital means.

The proliferation of the internet catalyzed a major transformation in the broadcast ecosystem. Streaming services rose in prominence, overturning traditional media consumption habits. On-demand content became widely available, allowing viewers to watch their favorite shows anytime and anywhere, breaking away from the constraints of broadcast schedules. This shift towards on-demand viewing represented a significant change in consumer behavior, as convenience and personalization began to shape the market.

Today, the broadcast ecosystem is moving towards an era dominated by personalized media. Through the use of sophisticated algorithms, platforms can curate and recommend content that aligns with individual viewing habits and preferences. Social media has added a new dimension to the broadcast experience, offering instant feedback and high levels of engagement. Viewers can comment, share, and interact with content creators and fellow viewers in real-time, creating a vibrant, interactive community around media consumption.

Moreover, emerging technologies are poised to further revolutionize how we consume media. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and other immersive technologies are beginning to provide new ways for audiences to experience content, making it more engaging and interactive than ever before. These technologies promise to transport viewers to the heart of the story, creating an intimate connection with the content that was previously unattainable.

In summary, the evolution from transmission-focus to consumption-focus in the broadcast ecosystem underscores the dynamic, ever-changing nature of technology and its profound impact on society. This progression mirrors wider trends across various industries, which are increasingly adopting consumer-centric models. Such transformations are driven by relentless advances in technology and a fundamental shift in consumer behavior—factors that will continue to shape the future of broadcasting and media consumption for years to come.


The broadcast ecosystem is constantly evolving as new technologies and consumer preferences emerge. The traditional push systems are facing challenges from the growing popularity of pull systems, which offer more flexibility, personalization and interactivity for the users. The video distribution methods are also changing as new devices and platforms enter the market, such as smart TVs, mobile phones and tablets. The terminology of live, linear and video on demand TV is also becoming more blurred as some content providers offer hybrid models that combine different modes of presentation and consumption, such as catch-up TV, cloud DVR and live streaming.