What is connected TV?

There was a time when you had to rush home to catch your favourite programme on the box. Then along came video recorders which allowed us to tape TV shows.

Nowadays you can catch up on TV shows you've missed over the internet by using on-demand services such as the BBC's iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD (Channel 4) and Demand 5 (Five).

But watching television shows on your laptop or computer just isn't the same as viewing it on your telly. That's where connected TV comes in.

What it involves

Apps on a connected TV service

Print: What is connected television?

Connected TV uses your broadband internet connection to bring you the kind of video content you get on your computer (including on-demand services), but back where it belongs - on your telly.

And that means that you can sit back and watch the best of both the internet and your television from the comfort of your sofa.

Some connected TV services allow you to use the electronic programme guide (also referred to as the EPG) to scroll back in time to see if there are any shows from the past seven days that you've missed and would like to catch up on.

However, there are lots of different ways that you can enjoy online television on your television set.

Smart TVs

Many new TVs are smart TVs. They are 'smart' because they have integrated internet capabilities. This means you can access several services via apps on your telly.

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Lara Lewington

App is short for 'application' - a type of computer program.

For example, you can catch up with a TV show using the BBC iPlayer app or watch a movie from a subscription site using apps for services such as Netflix or Lovefilm.

Some smart TVs have a built-in webcam so you can use a video chat program (like Skype) and you may be able to access social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter, or even surf the net as you can on a computer.

It's clever stuff. But not many people want to buy a new television set until the old one packs up. So, how can you get connected using your current telly?

Ways of accessing connected TV

There are ways you can modify your existing television set to give you the connected TV experience.

There are several different boxes out there which can do this job. Some of these offer you the opportunity to scroll back through the past week's viewing schedule using the electronic programme guide. However, this does not mean that all programmes broadcast in that period will necessarily be available for viewing.

If you live in an area with cable TV, Virgin Media offer a TiVo box as part of their package. And if you go down the satellite route, then you can get connected TV via the Free Time service from Freesat.

Alternatively, you can buy a YouView box (directly from a retailer for a one-off payment), or you can get one as part of a package from a broadband provider.

A Sky+ box gives you TV on demand - but not the scroll-back function on the electronic programme guide (EPG) which is offered by the other boxes.

But if you don't want to pay out for a new bit of kit or commit to a new broadband contract, you may have another option already in your home.

Some people will literally get a cable and plug their laptop into the TV. Others will gain access to the internet via their Blu-ray player. Or you could go down a different route and use your games console.

You can get the BBC iPlayer on any of the three major games consoles - PlayStation3, Wii and Xbox. Other on-demand services (such as ITV Player) are also available on some games consoles but you'll need to check what's available on each device.

Connected Red Button

The BBC launched Connected Red Button on Virgin Media's TiVo box service in 2012. It offers more content to viewers than the existing Red Button service.

Connected Red Button allows viewers to catch up on previous episodes of programmes and access BBC children's channels, BBC Three and BBC Four - as well as a range of clips and other extra content - at any time of the day or night.

There are plans to make the service available to other internet-connected TVs over the coming months.

Some helpful tips

You can get connected TV wirelessly using your home Wi-Fi. However, you may find that the speed of your Wi-Fi connection is not fast enough to provide video services.

If this is the case, then you'll need to use an ethernet (or network) cable to get connected TV.

Getting connected

Television and router

The best thing to do when you install your connected TV set-top box is to make sure your ethernet cable can stretch to connect your television to your broadband router. If it isn't long enough then you'll need an extension lead.

Another thing you need to be aware of is your broadband speed and how this can affect your connected TV service.

A minimum broadband speed of 3Mb is typically needed. (Mb stands for 'megabits' and you might also hear megabits referred to as 'Meg' or 'Megs'.) You can find out your speed from your broadband provider.

Also, watching on-demand and catch-up TV services counts towards any data limit (or data allowance) you may have. Your data limit is the amount of data - digital information such as video files - that you can download each month. (To 'download' something just means to transfer a file from the internet to your computer.)

The data limit is measured in gigabytes per month or 'GB' for short. (You might also hear gigabytes referred to as 'Gig' or 'Gigs'.) Find out what your allowance is. Again, you just need to contact your broadband provider.

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