What kind of year will 2010 be in IPTV and related fields? Maybe the only thing that can be said for certain is that the number of IPTV subscribers will continue to grow, both in the U.S. and worldwide. Though, they may not continue to grow at the robust pace we have grown accustomed to in recent years.
Beyond that, I think some of the trends that closed out 2009 suggest that it could be a year of fits and starts and frustratingly slow progress for the sector. Give those trends, five of which were highlighted among FierceIPTV's top stories of 2009, here are 10 things that I think will--or in most cases actually won't--happen in 2010:
1) AT&T won't acquire DirecTV: The stars seem to be aligning to enable this deal to happen, but solid IPTV success for AT&T and an already-successful satellite TV partnership argue against it. Does AT&T have more to gain by owning DirecTV, or could such a deal just cause conflicts with DirecTV's other telco resale partners?
2) Cable TV operators will continue to acquire broadcasters: The Comcast-NBC deal was just the beginning. Having said that, I have no idea who will buy whom next, but other major service providers, telcos included, won't quietly cede control of the content universe to a single cable TV operator.
3) Telcos will increasingly launch localized content: Battles with the cable TV incumbents over access to local news, sports and information programming suggest that modest efforts so far by Verizon and AT&T are just the beginning of a new trend.
4) TV Everywhere's progress will be delayed: Public advocacy groups are appealing to regulators, which could tie up TV Everywhere in controversy during the coming months. Some TV Everywhere providers also may proceed with only limited launches as they try to figure out how authentication should work and what mix of content is best.
5) The FCC's set-top box review won't shake up the market: Many different parties want many different things out of the review, and that means this issue will drag on. Expect some statements out of the FCC to go along with next month's update on the national broadband plan, but don't expect a completely open and revitalized market anytime soon.
6) The Comcast-NBC deal will face year-long scrutiny: Anti-competitive concerns will slow down this joint venture. The ability to dominate much of the programming sector is too good an opportunity for Comcast to pass up, but what sort of regulatory conditions will it have to agree to in order to get its joint venture to proceed?
7) Hulu won't go away: Verizon chief Ivan Siedenberg said that Hulu eventually "won't matter." While Hulu and similar ventures will face an uncertain future if the Comcast-NBC deal proceeds and TV Everywhere gains growth quickly, stats like video stream growth of more than 300 percent and monthly user growth of more than 95 percent in 2009 hardly suggest a dying phenomenon.
8) Rural telcos won't give up on IPTV: Last year at this time, IP-Prime's demise highlighted the uncertainties for small telcos looking at launching IPTV services. But, other parties have aggressively moved in to help those telcos, while vendors like Microsoft have made strides to make their platforms more appealing and more affordable from the little guys.
9) Home networking won't be dominated by a single technology: The G.hn home networking standard won't change anything about the diverse home network technology universe anytime soon. The standard is inching along toward a commercial impact, but that impact is unlikely to be felt this year, and even when commercial G.hn gear becomes available, existing home networking technologies will continue to thrive.
10) Targeted advertising won't have a major impact in 2010: At this time last year, it looked like 2009 was going to be a big year for progress toward new TV advertising models, in particular targeted advertising. But, those projections were way off base, as the industry is still struggling with the best way to cultivate and promote targeted ads. Linear ad insertion seems likely to be the major focus of TV service providers in 2010.
Agree? Disagree? What are some of your predictions for the coming year? Let us know.