Hybrid TV deployments herald a change in operator vision


Looking to get into a strong growth industry? You don't have to look too far, says NPD's In-Stat: The hybrid TV world is poised to take off.

The researcher, in a new study released today, said it expects some 100 million households to actively use hybrid TV services by 2016.

And its already starting to ramp up. Today's FierceIPTV newsletter carries news of a handful of deployments, and I've been pinged by at least a half dozen other vendors to look for anouncements of new deployments in the next couple of weeks.

Deploying a hybrid solution is becoming more commonplace as operators look to develop new revenue streams as well as answer consumer pleas for access to over-the-top content.

As NPD points out, it's been a whirlwind of change in the past 18 months as "TV programs have come to the Internet, and the Internet has gone to mobile devices. Now, the Internet is coming back to TV."

It wasn't too long ago that I was having weekly, and sometimes daily, conversations with entrepreneurs looking to bring the Internet to the living room, using any number of clunky devices and a variety of dongles to send Internet content, at the time mostly YouTube video, music and photos, to TV sets. It often was a laborious, and sometimes Goldbergesque task that was scoffed at by many operators at the time, looked at as a quaint idea, but unnecessary. Only techies, they said, were interested.

How things have changed.

"The next step in the viewing experience will be for TV sets and set top boxes to permit all of the traditional TV-related services, which is then expanded and enhanced by bringing in content from the Internet, or from Internet-like web services that provide a ‘walled garden' of authorized content and on-screen features," says Gerry Kaufhold, Research Director at NPD. "In tandem with web-based content coming to TV screens are TV apps that use tablets or smartphones. We expect nearly 80 million households will be actively using TV apps provided by their service provider by 2016. These new hybrid approaches provide an excellent growth opportunity for TV producers."

Currently, NPD said, viewers still watch most of their Internet content on computers. North America has the most hybrid TV homes, but the United Kingdom, France and Germany--where IPTV already is the dominant source of video entertainment--is quickly gaining ground. NPD said Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) service will begin to gain dominance in Europe by late 2013, and it is likely to make the continent "the worldwide center of excellence for long-term development of hybrid TV services."

IP&TV World Forum 2012 kicked off today in London. It announced that after eight years, it was changing its name, a pretty big step. The new moniker for Informa Telecoms & Media's baby? TV Connect, echoing, Informa said, the evolving industry and rapidly converging TV market.

"With cablecos, satellite, terrestrial broadcasters, content providers and telcos all providing enhancements to their services through Internet connectivity, the rebrand represents the growing and diverse nature of IP & Connected TV, and recognizes the shift in industry players that now offer TV and personalized media services," Informa said.

Gavin Whitechurch, Informa's ED, said the change reflects the transformation occurring in the industry. "Our industry now encapsulates so much more," he said. "Our market is rich with alternative service terminologies; from multiplatform and multiscreen, to TV Everywhere, mobile TV, Smart TV and Connected TV, and OTT TV to Personal TV."

Change is good.--Jim