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Internet television is the quintessential digital convergence medium, putting together television, telecommunications, the Internet, computer applications, games, and more. It is part of a historic move from individualized narrowband capacity, measured by kilobits per user, to one of broadband with a capacity of megabits per user. This move will have major consequences for many aspects of society and the economy, similar to the impact the automobile had when it replaced trains, horses, and bicycles. It will affect, in particular, the medium now called television.

What exactly is Internet television (TV)? There is no agreement on a definition. It comes with different names—web TV, IPTV, enhanced TV, personal TV, and interactive TV, for example—which signify slightly different things. At the lower end of complexity, it is merely a narrowband two-way Internet-style individualized (“asynchronous”) channel that accompanies regular one-way “synchronous” broadband broadcast TV or cable. This Internet channel can provide information in conjunction with broadcast programs, such as details on news and sports, or enable transactions (including e-commerce) in response to TV advertisements. This is known as “enhanced TV.” At the other end of complexity is a fully asynchronous two-way TV, with each user receiving and transmitting individualized TV programs, including direct interaction in the program plot line. In between is one-way broadband with a narrowband return channel that can be used to select video programs on demand (VOD). What Internet TV is today and can be in the future forms the context of this book.

This new medium is knocking at the door. Already, music is reaching millions of listeners around the world through the Internet. Video clips have traveled likewise. It will not be long before popular video programs are regularly delivered over the Internet as well, at significantly better quality and lower cost. People with broadband connections already download feature-length films, and in Japan, Yahoo BB is launching a portal of video channels.

Every new medium starts as a substitute and then evolves into something quite new. Internet TV, too, will first be used to access video servers that store existing programs, making them available for viewing at any time. But soon, going beyond the convenience of viewer choice and control, Internet TV will enable and encourage new types of entertainment, education, and games that take advantage of the Internet’s interactive capabilities. This assumes, of course, technical capability and economic viability, subjects of analysis in this volume.

This book is organized into five major sections: Infrastructure Implications, Network Business Models and Strategies, Content and Culture, Policy, and Global Impacts. Each section is introduced here.
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