Wednesday, 27 July 2011

IPTV – ready for take-off?

As a company with its roots in IPTV, we’ve seen a lot of predictions in the past about how IPTV will grow rapidly in the future – and it’s often been “in the next couple of years”. However, Digital TV Research’s recent prediction that homes paying for IPTV will more than quadruple to 155 million by the end of 2016 is rather more likely to come true due to to changes in the market and in the growth of IP connectivity.

As expected, it’s the Asia-Pacific region, home of ubiquitous high-bandwidth Internet, that’s likely to drive this growth. But Asia-Pacific is no longer alone in deploying this kind of bandwidth; more and more operators are deploying gigabit networks to the home, with a large amount of this reserved for media services. This trend plays a large part in the growth of pay services, as the viewing experience improves to the point where more people will pay for it.

While we here in Europe are seeing over-the-top content as the most popular driver for connected TVs, in the USA pay-TV services dominate. A recent report by Sandvine indicated that, at its peak, Netflix accounted for almost 30% of internet traffic in the USA, with real-time entertainment as a whole making up almost 50% of the Internet traffic. Not all of this is paid for, of course, but as more and more companies offer their content online there will be more attempts to monetize this. We’re already seeing Apple offering streaming TV shows to Apple TV devices, and Google offering movie rental services to Android devices.

This isn’t “traditional” IPTV, but that’s not a bad thing. The growth in Connected TVs, broadcast digital TV services, and independent media services such as Netflix has meant a move away from the subscription-based IPTV service offered by telcos. IPTV is now less of a substitute for broadcast TV and more of an additional service alongside traditional TV services, pay-TV or otherwise. A recent DisplaySearch forecast indicated that half a billion connected TV sets would be shipped by 2015, indicating that this trend will only continue. People are having ever more choice in the content they consume, and where they get it from. We may finally have found a business model that enables IPTV to reach its true potential.

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