Internet TV (or IPTVInternet protocol television) is basically what it sounds like – TV through the Internet. It is playable through a computer monitor, LED TV screen, or even on a mobile device such as a smartphone, iPod, or tablet computer.

There are many similarities between Internet TV and traditional broadcast TV or cable TV, though there are also things unique to this new format.

With cable and broadcast television you are often stuck watching whatever programs someone else has schedule at the times they have chosen to schedule them. Even with a DVR you are just recording the programs that have been offered, though you can now watch them on your own time. With Internet TV you have a lot more choice of what and when you will watch. You can watch live broadcasts as they happen from around the world, or watch uploaded episodes or clips from shows whenever you want.

Producing content for Internet TV is still in its early stages and so a lot more companies are doing it because it costs so much less than content on traditional television. Plus there is less worry about ratings and big name advertisers. Some programs available on IPTV are high budget, with big name stars and amazing special effects or locations. Others look like they were produced by amateur filmmakers with a handy cam and a basement.

Some IPTV websites offer shows from around the world, streaming live to your computer. You can’t fast forward or rewind while watching these live shows, just like if you were watching traditional television.

Other websites offer play-on-demand programs. These have been uploaded in full much like videos and can be paused, rewind, or fast forwarded through.

While IPTV programs may not have the number of commercial breaks that traditional TV programs will, some of them will have advertisements at certain intervals. This is how the IPTV company pays to stay in business or get licensing for their programming and unfortunately cannot necessarily be avoided.

Like the most basic on-air traditional television programming, there are a lot of IPTV programs that are free to watch. They are produced specifically for the Internet and have gotten funding from advertisers that place banner ads on their websites. They may also be some that include one or two short commercials before or during an episode of their program.

Other IPTV companies charge for access to their programming at a monthly rate. They may offer basic service for free, but that will include ads and less program options. By upgrading to their fee service, there are fewer to no ads and more programming options available to watch. The price for these services is often only a fraction of what it costs to subscribe to a cable or satellite service.

Like with cable or satellite television, there is also a way to pay per episode, season, or video for IPTV programs. Some companies sell them for a fee per item and you can keep that file forever. Others “rent” IPTV shows for a certain amount of time. After that period the file automatically deletes itself.