The mass media killer: IPTV

Too many consultants reports simply regurgitate known facts into a fancy new paradigm which is then spruiked as original research. The Yankee groups new report on the impact of IPTV on the US media and teleco markets is not one of these.

Yankee's two analysts, Anton Denissov and Vince Vittore, challenge the prevailing wisdom that suggests the dominance of cable in the U.S. makes IPTV an expensive carrier niche play. In a refreshingly clear and simply written analysis, they argue the ability to customize IP video and communications will shift the current mass-market model to a classic fragmented-market structure.

This, in turn, will also see all the players have to change from their traditional centralized command-and-control cultures and organizations (gorillas), to a far more flexible, localized and autonomous operational structure (guerrillas).

Vittore and Denissov argue that to focus on the limited number of households taking IPTV is to miss the point; IPTV will target the 70 percent of customers everyone wants--reliable income, home owners who appreciate the value in a triple-play bundle. And it will be this market where IPTV is forecast to achieve about 30 percent share.

The first generation of IPTV may be a facsimile of late-20th century television. But in time interactivity, smart APIs, mashups and the ability to compete with custom offerings down to individual IP addresses is predicted to push all players--telcos and MSOs--to radically rethink how they work or die.

Pause to consider how different the dot com web was from web 2.0--with all its RSS, widgetization, cloud networks and contextual search--and you get some insight as to how paradigm changing IPTV will be. And given how the U.S. so dominates the global video media industry, it will be a change felt world wide.

A curious absence from the Yankee report is the lack of discussion of the impact of over-the-top or online video. IPTV may cause material change in the distribution rules, but Internet TV--streamed and downloads direct to the TV--is expected to take off. One prediction is that 160 million homes world wide will connect their TVs to the web in the five years from 2007. Think of the Internet as a giant TiVo machine and you start to get the picture. In that scenario all things pre-recordable live on the Internet and all live programming--sport, competitions (eg. American Idol)--come down whatever pipe (or air-wave) works best. The latter still looks very mass market to me. Tom