NAB Followup: Broadcasters uncertain of IPTV role

Broadcasters uncertain of IPTV role
There were more questions than answers when it comes to broadcasters and IPTV. At last week's National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas, I heard lots of market projections and conjecture about the potential for IPTV, but it was clear that broadcasters were confused about their role.

According to Jimmy Schaeffler, senior research analyst at The Carmel Group, worldwide, IPTV will have 41.5 million subscribers by 2010. Schaeffler called IPTV a revolutionary technology and compared it to the direct broadcast satellite market for its potential to disrupt the market.

Broadcasters certainly want to play a role in this burgeoning market by distributing their content across a different platform. But there are complications. James Goodmon of Capitol Broadcasting, which owns WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC, says that local broadcasters can stay within the guidelines of their designated market area (DMA) by using credit cards with address verification and a USB dongle that would receive two or three local FM radio stations to verify that a computer receiving the streaming video was in that DMA.

Of course, part of the problem is the definition of IPTV. Are broadcasters referring to both Web-based IPTV and IPTV to the home TV?  FierceIPTV defines IPTV as a closed pay TV service sent to a subscriber's TV set, not PC.

Nevertheless, Goodmon's idea wasn't supported by everyone. Shawn Strickland, vice president, video solutions at Verizon Communications, said that he believes broadcasters will have an uphill battle because consumers want to take their content with them and not be limited to a certain DMA. "At Verizon, we build networks and we believe that consumers will take the technology and content and make it what they will," Strickland said. "The easier we make it as an industry, the more robust the value chain will be."

Strickland is right about consumers wanting to take their content with them. That's the philosophy behind the mobile TV movement and Sling Media's Slingbox phenomenon, both of which turn the traditional broadcasting model on its ear. Broadcasters need to pay attention to consumer demand and current trends if they want to play a role in this emerging market. -Sue