Friday, February 29, 2008

Belgacom at 305K IPTV Subscribers

Belgacom ended 2007 with 305,319 IPTV subscribers. It added 165,654 subscribers during the year, which more than doubled its subscriber base. It added 55,885 of these subscribers in 4Q07. Its IPTV revenues grew from 15 million euros in 2006 to 43 million euros in 2007.

The ARPU for Belgacom's IPTV service increased from 12.0 euros at the end of 2006 to 16.1 euros at the end of 2007. It stated that this increase in ARPU is the result of the end of its "Try&buy" offer and increased usage of new services.

Belgacom also stated that it invested 109 million euros in 2007 for its Broadway VDSL FTTN project. It invested 91 million euros in 2007 for its TV service.

Belgacom added more new subscribers in 2007 (166 to 128 thousand) than Telefonica, which serves a much larger market in Spain compared to Belgium. Belgacom is doing well against strong cable competition. I expect that this trend will continue through 2008.

Fastweb adds 100K IPTV Subscribers in 2007

Fastweb announced that its Gross Sales of its IPTV were 99.9 thousand new subscribers, which is a 10 percent increase over the 91 thousand new subscribers that it added in 2006. It added 43.7 thousand of these new subscribers in 4Q07, which is 73 percent up from 4Q06.

Fastweb credits the increase in IPTV sales in 4Q07 to the introduction of a TV only option in September 2006. The company stated that the churn rate of its IPTV service is 4 percent lower than its overall customer base. It also stated that its IPTV service provides upsell opportunities and helps to stabilize ARPU and improves customer retention.

I have asked Fastweb to clarify these numbers. In particular, I have request its total number of IPTV subscribers. It appears that my own estimates are fairly far off the mark right now. I will post any additional information that it sends me.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Telefonica ends 2007 with 511K IPTV Subscrsibers

Telefonica ended 2007 with 511.1 thousand IPTV subscribers. This is an increase of 42 thousand in 4Q07 and 128.1 thousand over the entire year. Growth in 2007 was significantly smaller than 2006 which saw an increase in the number of IPTV subscribers of 172.4 thousand subscriber.

Telefonica's O2 operation in the Czech Republic ended 2007 with 73.2 thousand IPTV subscribers, an increase of 20.2 thousand in 4Q07 and 58.2 over the entire year. O2 saw increasing subscriber growth in its IPTV service quarter by quarter in 2007.

The growth rate of Telefonica's IPTV service slowed in 2007. It looks like the company will have to put more marketing muscle into its IPTV service to get it back on track.

ATT Targeting 40K New Subscribers/Week by End 2008

ATT stated that it expects to be adding 40 thousand new U-verse IPTV subscribers per week by the end of 2008, up from 12 thousand per week today. Currently, 60 percent of its IPTV subscribers came from cable services. The company stated that its key features include:
  • More HD than cable in most markets
  • Ability to record 4 programs at one time
  • Web and mobile remote access
  • Built in picture in picture
  • Search
  • 10 Mbps Internet
ATT plans to add the following features in 2008:
  • Photo and media service in 1H08
  • 2 HD streams in 2Q or 3Q08
  • Whole home DVR in 2H08 that will support 7 streams - 2 live SD, 2 live HD, and 2 HD and 1SD on the DVR
  • VoIP expansion
  • Pair bonding for higher speeds in 4Q08
ATT appears to have gotten over its growing pains and is now rolling the service out at a significant rate. There is even hope that I can get it. I saw them installing fiber in the sewer down the street a couple of weeks ago.

European P2P Standards Effort

A European organization called P2P-Next, consisting of 21 organizations, has received a €14 million grant from the European Union to carry out a research project aiming to identify the potential uses of peer-to-peer (P2P) technology for Internet Television. The partners, including the BBC, Delft University of Technology, the European Broadcasting Union, Lancaster University, Markenfilm, Pioneer and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, intend to develop a Europe-wide Internet television distribution system, based on P2P and social interaction.

The organization states that “The P2P-Next project will run over four years, and plans to conduct a large-scale technical trial of new media applications running on a wide range of consumer devices. If successful, this ambitious project could create a platform that would enable audiences to stream and interact with live content via a PC or set top box. In addition, it is our intention to allow audiences to build communities around their favourite content via a fully personalized system.

This technology could potentially be built into Video on Demand (VOD) services in the future and plans are underway to test the system for major broadcasting events. We will have an open approach towards sharing results. All core software technology will be available as open source, enabling new business models. P2P-Next will also address a number of outstanding challenges related to content delivery over the Internet, including technical, legal, regulatory, security, business and commercial issues.”

I think that this effort could be very important in delivering Internet content to set-top boxes supporting TVs. A standardized approach that addresses video encoding and content security, among other issues could be a significant enabler for Internet delivery to the TV. A standard content security system could go a long way toward making the Hollywood studios more comfortable with offering their content over P2P networks.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

MTNL Hits Regulatory Hurdle

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has shot off a letter to MTNL seeking asking why it has violated licence conditions under which a basic service operator (BSO) cannot offer value-added services such as IPTV. The regulator pointed out that MTNL has reported IPTV tariffs and providing IPTV as a value-added service under the BSO licence.

MTNL has the choice of applying for an expensive UASL The regulator can also impose a fine on the state-owned telecom company. At the moment, MTNL has licences to operate basic as well as cellular services.

MTNL plans to protest the regulator's ruling.

MTNL, was the first to introduce IPTV services last October and will soon be facing IPTV competition from Reliance Communications and Bharti in the IPTV segment as these operators are also readying their plans. MTNL is targeting around 50,000 subscribers this year and has already has 6,000.

MTNL charges Rs 250 ($US6.35) a month for around 102 channels and an upfront payment of Rs 3,000 ($US75) as rental for the set-top box for providing IPTV services.

There has been a lot of press about IPTV regulation in India that has been quite positive until now. The bump in the road that MTNL has hit shows how difficult it is to forecast markets like India.

I would appreciate comments from any readers who are closer to this situation.

Telekom at 20.9K IPTV Subscribers at the end of 2007

In its financial presentation for 2007, Telekom Austria stated that it has 20,900 IPTV subscribers at the end of the year. I already blogged that it had 25 thousand IPTV subscribers at the end of January 2008. The company made the following statements about its aonTV IPTV service:
  • Its incremental monthly fee of 4.9 euros per month is the best offering in the Austrian market.
  • It is winning customers back with its IPTV service. 25 percent of new aonTV subscribers had previously disconnected their fixed lines.
  • aonTV is available to 45 percent of households in Austria
Now that Telekom Austria has moved from a trial to a commercial phase, it is positioned for significant growth in 2008.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Telefonica Has 500K IPTV Subscribers

It has been reported that Telefonica of Spain's Imagenio IPTV service now has 500 thousand subscribers. The service is now available to 5 million people in 565 cities and towns in Spain with population greater than 10 thousand people. The Imagenio service offers a basic tier with 30 channels, and an extended tier with 60 channels, plus Football and pay-per-view packages.

Imagenio continues to make good progress. I will report more when the company reports its 2007 results next week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

France Telecom Launches Soft at Home

France Telecom's Orange, Thomson and Sagem Communications have formed a joint venture called Soft At Home to create a standard for the interconnection of multimedia equipment within in the home. Soft At Home planse to create services that make it possible to access photos stored on a computer on theTV, make a telephone call using the television remote control, or even simultaneously save multimedia content, wherever the digital equipment is located in the home.

Soft At Home will use the technologies and experiences of its founding shareholders. Its software solutions are being offered to telecommunications operators, third-party developers, OEMs and manufacturers. Thomson and Sagem Communications will be incorporating the Soft At Home software into their offerings. Soft At Home has a global development ambition, and is looking to rapidly welcome new partners into its capital.

The next generation of residential gateways and TV decoders that will be used by Orange in 2008 will be equipped with Soft At Home software. Orange already serves over 6 million Liveboxes and over 1 million subscribers for its IPTV package.

Thomson provides video decoders (cable, satellite, IP) and residential gateways (DSL and cable). Furthermore, the Group’s SmartVision IPTV middleware is now used by more than 40 serivce provicers offering IPTV and mobile TV services worldwide. This system currently supports over 1.2 million IPTV users today.

Sagem Communications provides IPTV set-top boxes with about twenty roll-outs, as well as triple play residential gateways.

This appear to be a move by France Telecom to increase the stature of the Thomson and Sagem IPTV systems that it uses to compete with Microsoft's Mediaroom. Microsoft is positioned today to dominate the market with its software. Additional service service provider support would help the three Soft at Home partners to justify the investment to enhance its system to maintain its competitiveness against Microsoft's Mediaroom.

Deutsche Telekom Offering 1M euros in IPTV Competition

Click on this link to find out how to share in a 1 million euro pot with your idea for IPTV applications. The submission period for project ideas will kick off in March during CeBIT. Until then, potential participants can review contest details and download their starter kit.

This is quite cool. I will be putting my thinking cap on. May the best person win!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Comcast's Technology Strategy

Light Reading has published an article that outlines Comcast's IPTV strategy. Comcast is upgrading its network to provide more capacity for digital and data services. Its technology strategy focus on freeing up spectrum and include:
  • Wide deployment of switched digital
  • Improvements in MPEG-2 encoding efficiency
  • Analog reclamation, including the possibility of going all digital before the end of 2006

Comcast currently has nearly two-thirds of its video subscribers using digital services.

Comcast also plans to deploy DOCSIS 3.0 in order to offer very high speed data services.

This program will help Comcast compete better with satellite and IPTV services. It needs to use most of this reclaimed spectrum to increase the number of HD channels that it offers. HD is a strong requirement in the U.S. and Comcast is behind both satellite and IPTV services in its ability to offer HD today.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tele2 at 225K IPTV Subscribers in The Netherlands

Tele2 in the Netherlands (formerly Versatel) added 24 thousand IPTV capable subscribers in 4Q07 giving it a total of 225 thousand at the end of the year.

Tele2 is continuing to grow its IPTV service in a very competitive market in The Netherlands. Things may become more difficult for Tele2 in 2008. The renogotiation of the football TV rights may cause it to lose a key advantage.

KPN Adding 1,000 IPTV Subscribers per Week

In its 4Q07 results presentation, KPN in the Netherlands stated that it was adding 1,000 IPTV subscribers per week by the end of 2007. It did not announce its total number of IPTV subscribers.

On the other hand, KPN did state that the number of subscribers for its digital terrestrial service grew to 497 thousand in 2007, an increase of 232 subscribers.

I can only assume that KPN still has a small IPTV subscriber base since it has not announced any numbers. A growth rate of 1,000 per week should correct this situation. Hopefully, KPN will give us some numbers in the future.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Free adds another 100K IPTV Subscribers

Free, the competitive carrier in France, added 137 thousand broadband suscribers in 4Q07 giving it a total of 2.904 million ADSL lines, 2.366 million of which are unbundled. The company expects to increase its unbundled lines from 81.5 percent of total broadband subscribers to 85 percent. It also has set an objective of having 4 million broadband subscribers by the end of 2010.

Free's ARPU reached a high of €36.3 in the 4Q07, an increase of 1 euro compared to the 3Q07 and 1.8 euros more than 4Q06. This increase is explained by the greater number of
unbundled subscribers, the use of premium services, such as Free Home Video (S-VOD).

During 2007 Free made the following enhancements to its IPTV service:
  • 12new channels added
  • TV services provided to PCs on all of its broadband lines
  • SVOD service providing access to movies and TV series
  • User contributed video service that can be viewed on the TV
My current estimate is that Free has 2.1 million subscribers capable of receiving TV services. The company has been increasing the number of unbundled subscribers that can receive its TV service. Its actual total of the number of subscribers capable of receiving TV service may actually be much closer to its 2.366 million unbundled subscribers. I will check with them and post any corrections they give me.

I always talk about "subscribers capable of receiving TV services" with Free. Its Freebox set-top box that is used by all of its subscribers comes with a TV decoder and a SCART connector. Consequently, Free provides 100 percent of its subscribers with the ability to connect to a TV. The question is what percentage of its TV capable subscribers actually watch the service. Free has not made any statements about this recently.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Neuf Cegetel has 750K IPTV Subscribers

Neuf Cegetel in France ended 2007 with 750 thousand IPTV subscribers. It experienced an increase over €4 in broadband ARPU compared with the fourth quarter of 2006. During the second half of 2007, the it launched two new services. By the end of December, Neuf Music, the Neuf Cegetel’s unlimited legal music download service, had generated 5 million downloads. Less than four months after their launch, the Neuf TV Sélection and Neuf TV Grand Spectacle pay-TV packages, which are available for a monthly fee starting from €10.90 per month, had around 10% of the eligible IPTV subscribers.

Neuf Cegetel continues to grow its IPTV base and together with Free and France Telecom have made France the number one IPTV market globally.

Telia Sonera Hits 379K IPTV Subscriptions

Telia Sonera announced that it had 379 thousand IPTV subscriptions at the end of 2007, an increase of 103 thousand during 4Q07. In Sweden the number of IPTV subsriptions grew by 88 thousand in 4Q07 to a total of 304 thousand. This compares to a growth of 98 thousand broadband subscribers in Sweden.

Telia Sonera's new strategy to include IPTV has continued to drive the number of its IPTV subscribers up significantly. However competition in its markets is driving prices down, which is putting profitability pressure on its broadband services.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

BT Reaches 150K IPTV Subscribers

BT ended 2007 with 120 thousand IPTV subscribers and currently has 150 thousand. This is an increase from 60 thousand IPTV subscribers at the end of 3Q07.

BT is continuing to make strong progress with its BT Vision IPTV service. This service is provided to any BT broadband subscriber with at least a 2 Mbps DSL connection. It includes access to the Freeview digital terrestrial services for broadcast channels. It appears that 2008 will be an excellent year for this service.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

France Tops 1M IPTV Subscribers

France Telecom ended 2007 with 1.149 million IPTV subscribers in France. This was an increase of 572 thousand in 2007. The company has an additional 40 thousand IPTV subscribers in Poland and 54 thousand in other parts of Europe (Spain and The Netherlands). It saw an increase of 37 thousand subscribers in Poland in 2007 and 44 thousand in other parts of Europe.

The penetration of ITPV service in France increased from 10 percent of ADSL subscribers in 2006 to 16 percent in 2007.

France Telecom continues its strong growth in IPTV in France as well as its operations in other parts of Europe. It is clear that IPTV is a key part of its broadband strategy.

Videotron Introduces 30/50 Mpbs Cable Modem Services

Videotron, the cable company in Quebec, Canada, has introduced new cable modem services at 30 and 50 Mbps. These new services use Cisco's wideband technology that is a precursor to DOCSIS 3.0 technologies and will be initially offered to 115 thousand homes in Laval. Videotron currently has 1.6 million customers in Quebec.

The specifics of these two new services include:
  • Ultimate Speed Internet 30 at $US64.60 per month provides 30 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream with total file transfer limits (uploads and downloads combined) of 30 GB per month.
  • Ultimate Speed Internet 50 at $US79.50 per month provides 50 Mbps downstream and 1 Mbps upstream with total file transfer limits (uploads and downloads combined) of 50 GB per month.
Videotron offers 10 and 20 Mbps services outside of Laval at the same price as the 30 and 50 Mbps services, respectively. Videotron will also offer business services at 30 and 50 Mbps using the same technology.

After Laval, these services will gradually be rolled out across the rest of Videotron's service area.

Videotron ran a trial of this technology with 100 users in 2007. It found that Cisco's technology would support speeds of 100 Mbps. Videotron decided not to offer a 100 Mbps service because it felt that it would not be affordable at a price well over $US100 per month.

Videotron is currently testing DOCSIS 3.0 systems in its labs. It expects to deploy this technology in the future. It will increase the upstream speeds at the same time.

This is the first commerical rollout in North America of pre DOCSIS 3.0 technology. This rollout follows the patter that I have expected with limited geographic deployment and a high price attached to the service. This approach gives Videotron bragging rights, but it does not significantly change its position in the broadband market in Quebec.

I expect that U.S. cable companies will follow a similar strategy. They will be more concerned about cannibalizing their own base of cable modem users than telco broadband services. I expect that this will be true even where Verizon's FiOS TV FTTH service is starting to make significant inroads.

On the other hand, these new cable technologies provide an excellent counter strategy for the cable companies that they can choose to use aggressively when they have to.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

SingTel has 27K IPTV Subscriber

SingTel in Singapore announced that it had 27 thousand mio TV IPTV subscribers at the end of December 2007. This was an increase of 17 thousand subscribers during the fourth calendar quarter of 2007.

SingTel appears to be doing quite well with its IPTV service. At current rates it should end 2008 with about 100 thousand IPTV subscribers.

Cablevision Closing Hollywood Release Windows

Cablevision, the New York metro area cable provider, has come up with a twist together with Popcorn Home Entertainment that permits Cablevision viewers to watch video on demand movies on the same day that the DVD is released rather than waiting until the later video on demand release window is reached, typically 30 to 45 days later.

The trick is that the viewer must order the DVD at the same time as he or she makes the video on demand request. The DVD will be delivered a few days after the video on demand version is viewed.

Universal Studios Home Entertainment titles such as The Bourne Ultimatum, The Kingdom, Eastern Promises, Sydney White, and the American Gangster will be available under this service. New releases are available for the price of $19.95 plus shipping and library titles cost between $9.95 and $15.95 plus shipping.

MPAA research showed that a significant number of people would buy the DVD as they leave the movie theater if it were available. This research indicates that this new service should be reasonably popular.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Packet Vision Targeted Advertising Trial

Packet Vision ran a targeted, addressable advertising trial on the Inuk PC-based Internet IPTV service. Inuk provides TV services to about 150 thousand college and university students in the UK using a PC-based client.

The campaign featuring a Mediacom financial client ran daily on Channel 4 in the UK between 16 and 31 October. It was specifically targeted at university students across the UK so that during the same 40 seconds in which the ad spot ran, students saw an ad from a different brand to the rest of the general viewing population.

Packet Vision worked closely with Channel 4 to support the ad insertion trial. Local ad insertion is not generally available in the UK or the rest of Europe, so the programming that Channel 4 provided to Inuk had to be modified to provide the time slots for the ad insertions.

There were 44 ad insertions made during this two week period. The ads were targeted to students located in the UK but not in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Raw viewing data was provided by Inuk to Packet Vision. Packet Vision created reports for Mediacom that gave exact counts of viewers along with some demographic profiling. This is a more precise measure than the estimates ususally provided by viewer surveys.

Inuk and Packet Vision are working on a more extensive trial that will probably be five weeks long and provide more precise geographic and affinity group targeting. Packet Vision is also working with IPTV service providers in France and in Spain to set up similar trials. It is also working with Channel 4 in the UK to smooth out the sales and operational processes to support these targeted services.

Packet Vision stated that these targeting techiniques will be implement in North America, because there is already a well established infrastructure for ad insertion. The broadcasters already provide video streams that are prepared for ad insertion.

The techniques that Pacet Vision is pioneering in Europe are extremely important to IPTV. The revenue streams from advertising will be a significant addition to the IPTV business case. There is a lot of work to be done in Europe, but the potential returns are well worth it.

On Telecoms Offers IPTV in Greece

On Telecoms is a competitive carrier in Greece that offers broadband, IPTV, and VoIP services over an ADSL-2+ broadband network. It offers three broadband bundles:
  • IPTV and VoIP for 27 euros per month.
  • VoIP and Internet for 32 euros per month.
  • IPTV, VoIP, and Internet for 35 euros per month
It currently offers 30 broadcast channels and 1,200 video on demand titles. The video on demand titles are offered at prices that range from 1.99 to 2.99 euros. It also offers 3 days of catch up TV.

On Telecoms currently has about 45 thousand subscribers with about 3 thousand video on demand views per week. More that 80 percent of its broadband subscribers subscribe to IPTV services. The companies expects strong growth in its IPTV service and believes that it will ha e 300 thousand IPTV subscribers by the end of 2010. It is the only IPTV service in Greece today, but expect that other carriers will offer IPTV services in the future.

On Telecoms looks like it is on its way to establishing a strong IPTV service in Greece. Its technical leadership came from FastWeb in Italy and is quite experienced in both IPTV technology and marketing. This is certainly a strong background.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Telekom Austria Has 25K IPTV Subscribers

Telekom Austria ended 2007 with 25 thousand subscribers to its aonTV IPTV service. It is currently adding about 1,000 new subscribers per week. It plans to make the following enhancements to this service in 2008:
  • Increasing its video on demand library to 500 movies.
  • Offering Hollywood HD movies as part of its video on demand service.
  • Increasing the number of broadcast channels to 100.
  • Adding a pause/live feature that will make it possible to pause and continue watching both broadcast and video on demand programming.
  • The service will be made available to 50 percent of all Austrian households.
Telekom Austria moved from a trial to a commercial mode in 2007. The service is adding subscribers at a strong rate and should continue to do well.