Rural IPTV outlook might be improving

During 2008 economic conditions and overall timing seemed stacked against the likelihood of rural telcos getting more aggressive with IPTV deployments. The expense of building an IPTV service and brand, combined with the overall economic crisis and the availability of less expensive Internet video partnerships with companies like VUDU seemed to make IPTV projects as risky as ever.

However, this year, a few things have happened that have the market potential for rural IPTV or advanced rural video services in general looking up:

1) Reports out of NAB 2008 suggested that the cost of IPTV infrastructure is coming down.

2) Rural telco consolidation is ramping up. There are challenges and risks for suddenly larger companies, but these deals also create larger companies with better buying power and bigger appetites for triple play services.

3) Those same companies like VUDU that may have been diverting some telcos away from the IPTV option have started to work with other vendors to present service providers with more integrated video options, so they don't have to necessarily choose between IPTV and pure Internet video.

4) The merger of Avail Media and TVN Entertainment, with an assist from the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative, could fill the gap left by the demise of the IP-Prime offering, encouraging more telcos to take the IPTV route with the knowledge that they do not have to take on Hollywood all alone.

There probably will not be one specific strategy for rural telcos looking to get video into the home, but after a year in which rural IPTV began to look like a very limited market, 2009 is shaping up as a year of much greater activity.