Avail-TVN looks for customer wins as EchoStar closes IPTV transport business

EchoStar Wednesday told its IPTV customers it was terminating its ViP-TV linear MPEG-4 transport offering, giving them about 45 days to find a new vendor with which to work. The move will affect about 26 customers, almost all of them Tier 3 service providers.

According to reports, customers were informed by email and told the company would begin shutting down the service Aug. 24.

"Looking at the business environment, we decided to terminate the service," an EchoStar spokesman said. Its last customer announcement came in June 2010 with the addition of Duncan cable, which has 2,800 customers in southern Vermont.

Ironically, EchoStar made a big move in the business in 2009 when SES Americom's IP-Prime offering, a wholesale transport and programming business supporting small U.S. telcos rolling out IPTV service, shuttered its own service.

At the time, SES cited slow adoption of IPTV, as well as a "difficult market outlook." When it announced the decision in December 2008, SES said it had IPTV signal delivery agreements with 70 small telcos, 37 of which already had conducted commercial roll-outs.

Avail Media (prior to its merger with TVN Entertainment), also used the demise of the service to build its customer base, quickly picking up nine IP-Prime customers in the first three months following SES's December announcement. By Junethe company said it had added 34 former IP-Prime customers to its roster.

On Thursday, Avail-TVN COO Jon Romm told FierceIPTV that the move by EchoStar was an opportunity for Avail to make another major expansion; one it was ready for.

"This is a great opportunity for us," Romm said. "While we don't like to see a competitor go away, if they are going away, we want to make sure the industry knows this is not an industry problem, it's a company problem. But, we've been through this process before and we know how to handle it."

The quick turnaround--EchoStar said it plans to close its service totally by Sept. 30--could put some providers in a bind, said Romm.

"I know 45 days seems like it's quick, but we've done a significant amount of testing, and we feel we can do a lot of remote transitions. We're not panicked, we just want to get started."

He added Avail-TVN already had transitioned three EchoStar customers and had two more "in the queue now"

The company is planning a webinar Monday to tell other potential customers about its own service, which, Romm said, has essentially the same channel lineup as EchoStar's does.

"It's important that [the EchoStar decision] not send industry wide message that creates concern," he said. "It comes down to the difference between a company like Avail-TVN and what we do for a living, and for a company like EchoStar and its ViP product line. For them, the IPTV part is an augmentation to another business.

"We're in this thing for the long haul," he added.

Avail-TVN won't be the only company looking to transition former EchoStar customers. Comcast offers a similar service, and there are a number of over-the-top providers that can offer augmentation options for telcos looking to offer a video option.

For more:
- see this Telecompetitor article

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