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Video services

IPTV Back on Track

Is IPTV on the comeback trail?

Based on the news of the past week, it would seem so. Companies as diverse as Swisscom AG, TDC A/S in Denmark, CenturyLink Inc. in the U.S. and Canadian telcos Manitoba Telecom Services Inc. (MTS) and Bell Aliant reported improved numbers for their expanding IPTV services.

In the case of the North American service providers, the IPTV numbers were the bright spots reported in earnings that otherwise suffered from loss of legacy revenues. (See Swisscom Ramps Its IPTV User Base and CenturyLink Dials Back Growth Expectations.)

And of course, the largest of the North American IPTV players, AT&T Inc., continues to defy its detractors by building its U-Verse IPTV numbers. During the second quarter of this year, U-verse IPTV added 233,000 subscribers to exceed the 5 million mark in total subs. (See AT&T UVerse Catches FIOS.)

A year ago, I wouldn't have seen IPTV as the service of the future for any service provider, given the onslaught of over-the-top (OTT) services, the demand for multi-screen services and the continued high cost of content, at least in North America. But IPTV itself is morphing from its roots as a version of cable TV that happened to be delivered over an IP network into a richer application of its core technology.

Witness the new IPTV service being launched in Australia by Foxtel, Telstra Corp. Ltd. and News Corporation's joint TV subscription company, and aimed at personal computers, game consoles and connected Samsung TV sets. The service offers basic cable content for $25 a month and premium channels for higher rates, allowing the consumer to mix and match.

In Spain, Telefónica de España's Movistar TV has launched an application, Movistar TV Go, that gives subscribers access to limited set of TV channels across all their connected devices for an introductory cost of about $3.30 a month. Its competitor, Orange Spain, is revamping its own Spanish IPTV service to be multi-screen, with both basic and premium packages, in an effort to boost sagging sales of more traditional IPTV.

The other thing boding well for the IPTV crowd was the release earlier this summer of the Open IPTV Forum HTML5 profile and related technologies, which are designed to make it easier for developers to create rich apps and services for connected TVs.

All of this adds up to real possibilities for an IPTV future that looks much more positive, but will still require a willingness to invest and innovate on the part of its providers. Expensive content still poses the same threat it always has, to both IPTV and cable, but as OTT providers have shown, an IP-based service can even overcome those challenges with its own content.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

TTDCorp 8/13/2013 | 12:39:04 AM
re: IPTV Back on Track Except for lacking content rights for distribution a service provider should have no concern with OTT and IPTV. Virtually all of the IPTV middleware contains OTT application tool sets. I have worked with most of the vendors and as recent as March, had a service provider bail from an IPTV upgrade due to their lack of understanding the OTT toolset was already enabled. What is more baffling is their content contracts enabled OTT distribution. This fear and lack of embrace of OTT is really disconcerting.
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