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Video services

IPTV Watch: It's So OTT!

LONDON -- IPTV World Forum 2010 -- Found yourself dreaming about hybrid systems, end-to-end IP solutions, and set-top box apps?

It can only mean one thing: The IPTV World Forum is back in town.

That, or it's time for your medication.

So what's going to be hot at this year's show, which starts March 23? Heavy Reading analyst Adi Kishore has some thoughts on the topics that should be keeping the service providers up at night.



And many of the service providers in question are in London this week, talking about their IPTV strategies, while the vendors jostle to attract attention for their latest platforms, systems, and slideware. Then there are the market watchers -- keep reading to find out how SNL Kagan believes the market is growing.

But who's talking about what?

Tuesday's keynote session will see presentations by executives from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) (on FiOS TV, of course) and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), which will provide an update on its BT Vision service. Both have stories to tell about the delivery of TV and video content as part of a triple-play service package. Orange (NYSE: FTE) and AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) lead the way on Wednesday, while cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) and satellite services company Sky will provide their perspectives on Thursday.

The event's agenda suggests that over-the-top (OTT) content, and how it can be combined with pay-TV services delivered over IPTV, satellite, and terrestrial networks, will be a key topic at the event. The increasing availability of free OTT content from sources such as the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) 's iPlayer, YouTube Inc. , and Hulu LLC is a growing concern for telco-TV operators, which are now looking to get in on the OTT act before it's too late.

Vendors are rushing in to help, meanwhile: A glance at the equipment fraternity's outpourings ahead of the event indicates that "hybrid" will be a key show buzzword.

While hybrid may previously have meant mixing satellite and broadcast TV channels, in today's world it refers more to the combination of traditional broadcast and IPTV services with OTT content. (See Internet Video: Problem Unsolved.)

Several vendors, such as Amino Communications Ltd. , Netgem , Entone Inc. , and AirTies , will be talking about their hybrid systems during the week. (See Entone Shows Off 'Hybrid TV', AirTies, SoftAtHome Team Up, and Amino Shows Off at IPTV Forum.)

"Operators are increasingly under pressure from the combined threat posed by Internet content available direct through PCs, video game consoles, and Internet-connected television sets," says NetGem's managing director, Christophe Aulnette. "Provisioning value-added services which combine the best of broadcast with the best of Internet and the user's own content will be a key differentiator in this battlefield."

Turkish vendor AirTies, meanwhile, has linked with the France Telecom–backed SoftAtHome consortium to provide an OTT-capable wireless set-top box that, it says, will enable service providers to combine IPTV, satellite, terrestrial, and OTT services.

Weathering the downturn
There's also some good news for IPTV providers ahead of the event, as a new report from SNL Kagan says IPTV has proved fairly recession proof during the global downturn.

According to the research company, IPTV accounted for 4.9 percent of pay-TV subscribers in 2009, up from just 0.01 percent at the end of 2003. Total IPTV subscriber numbers grew 46.9 percent year-on-year between 2008 and 2009 to nearly 30 million, while revenues increased by 69 percent to nearly $8.7 billion.

Western Europe dominates the subscriber numbers, accounting for 13.2 million of the global total at the end of 2009, followed by Asia/Pacific and North America, with 9.6 million and 6 million subscribers respectively. The SNL Kagan team expects Asia/Pacific to surpass Western Europe in terms of IPTV subscriber population by 2012, when the region is set to have 19.3 million IPTV subscribers.

The research company expects the total number of global IPTV subscribers to grow to 59.7 million by 2013, or 8.3 percent of pay-TV subscribers. Worldwide IPTV revenues are expected to reach $22.6 billion by then, accounting for 9.8 percent of global pay-TV revenues.

"Telco's penetration of the video business has the potential to fuel multichannel TV hypercompetition," notes SNL Kagan senior analyst Ben Reneker in the report. "As pay-TV operators face increasing pressure to meet consumer expectations for channel diversity and on-demand offerings, IPTV will be well-positioned to deliver, further eroding cable and DTH subscriber share globally."

— Anne Morris, freelance editor, special to Light Reading

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