MTS Allstream faces IPTV maturity

U.S. telcos are starting to accelerate their IPTV strategies and generate excitement, but North America's real proving ground for IPTV is Canada, where MTS Allstream and SaskTel each have been in the TV market for more than five years. That became evident as Kelvin Shephard, president of consumer markets at MTS Allstream, talked about the company's IPTV progress last week at the IPTV World Forum North America in Chicago.

The Manitoba telco now has 33 percent market share for IPTV, and more than 78,000 customers in the area of Winnipeg, Manitoba. A telco like AT&T may have far more IPTV customers, but it can't yet claim that kind of market share in any of its individual markets. "It's more than we expected we would have at this point," Shephard said. "But it's still growing."

As its IPTV service matures, MTS Allstream is encountering a competitive reality that remains on the horizon for other telcos. It has been able to withstand aggressive promotions and discounts from local cable TV competitors, but Shephard acknowledged the company is starting to see more competition from over-the-top Web video content providers. "Non-traditional competitors are emerging, and we are enabling these folks to be able to do these things over our own network," he said. "That's something we have to think about and something we are working on understanding."

Among other challenges, Shephard said programmers continue to expect a lot in terms of security, encryption and reliability, and are not shy about applying their considerable leverage to get what they want. "We need to work with them and help them create more opportunities for viewer loyalty and targeted marketing." In-home wiring also continues to present challenges to driving down IPTV installation times.

Recent accomplishments include the launch of a Local Expression local content channel. Meanwhile, the near future will see the company expand beyond its comfort zone of Winnipeg, while strengthening its channel line-up, migrating to the Microsoft Mediaroom platform, and providing high-definition and whole-home DVR capabilities.