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New IPTV still in land grab mode - 10-September-2008, 12:40

IPTV still in land grab mode

IPTV remains the hottest of hot topics at this years giant IBC show. However, despite much talk of a maturing industry, the consensus from a Rapid TV News Round Table is that for vendors and operators IPTV is still in land grab mode.

Simon Cotliff, new business development manager at Switzerland-based set-top box supplier ADB, says there have been some dramatic changes over the past year or so in the IPTV sector. A few years ago cable companies were not taking IPTV very seriously. During that time the market has matured. The middleware has matured, the boxes have matured. It is fair to say that the sector as a whole is still in the 1.0 phase and is very much in land grab mode and about winning subscribers, but if we characterise IPTVs growth with our own in sales, it took us quite a long time to reach one million boxes deployed. We know its not going to take the same length of time to reach two million, thats for sure.

Simon McGrath, CMO at VOD and interactive specialists SeaChange International, also agrees that changes are afoot. I see IPTV as a product that is becoming fully mature. It is a product that every telco worldwide is looking to deploying. Weve seen great success in Spain, in France. We are seeing hybrid IPTV and DVB deployments in the United States with Verizon and other operators and new services are rapidly taking off.

Sebastian Kramer, founder and CEO at Quative, part of the Kudelski Group, argues that IPTV is now some 10 years old, and in its earlier days was frequently written off by its rivals and perhaps the industry generally. This is not wise. It must be taken seriously because there are now plenty of deployments topping one million and many that are approaching that number. These are significant milestones and show us that IPTV is going to grow but I agree that we are still at the 1.0 stage offering only me too services. I look forward to showing how IPTV can really differentiate itself by offering exciting new services.

The three experts also concurred on another key aspect in IPTVs lifespan. Kramer. It isnt so easy to design an IPTV multicast system, but today the IPTV operators are mastering the hard side and not yet fully utilising the systems full strength which is interactivity.

ADBs Cothliff explained that many operators are asking ADB to respond to requests about integrating higher bandwidth volumes and asking how they can monetise these opportunities. From the set top box provider point of view, we can do much more than just handle MPEG2 or MPEG4. So perhaps one solution is to take relatively low bandwidth video, say at 1Mb, and upscale it, which would allow YouTube content to be viewed on the TV set. This is one appealing option. The other topic that is very real is Home Networking. We have customers rolling out standard-based systems within the home with a very high degree of functionality.

Asked whether interactivity just meant VOD, Simon McGrath response was an instant Yes, and no! He explains: The key word for us is the On Demand element more than the VOD portion. VOD puts people in a very specific box and we work and focus on very personalised services. This means an ability for operators to gauge and interact much more effectively and intimately with their customers.

Think about when we walk into our favourite bookstore or record shop. We understand the environment and we might have a loyalty card and the enjoyment insists that we go back and visit the store again and again. So our focus is very much on how we merge television in a two-way, high quality environment and other high quality consumer-orientated content in a personal manner to consumers, adds McGrath.
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