It's easy for critics to take shots at IPTV, and many of them--especially those that point to its seeming inability to fulfill its promise of interactivity--are well deserved. But, and this is an important but, IPTV subscriptions worldwide continue to grow at a steady (and, sometimes breakneck) pace.
UK research firm Point Topic released numbers last week in its Consumer Broadband Value Added Services report that showed the run rate for consumer BVAS revenues went from $39.6 billion to $48.9 billion during 2009, exceeding the revenue growth for consumer broadband lines, which was up 14 percent.
And, said John Bosnell, a PT senior analyst and author of the report, "Value added services, like VOIP, security and IPTV grew more quickly than the number of broadband lines in 2009. The operators and ISPs are starting to increase the proportion of their revenues that they generate selling add-on services for broadband and they are doing it successfully at least in revenue terms."
Point Topic CEO Oliver Johnson later sent me some numbers that give a better idea of just how strong the IPTV market is becoming, albeit in the shadow of cable.
Worldwide, there were 33 million IPTV subs in 2009, up 47 percent over a year ago. And, year-to-year growth hit 10.8 million new subscribers in 2009 compared to 9.4 million new subs a year earlier. It was the most new subscribers added in a single year--and a single quarter--and each 2009 quarter was stronger than the corresponding 2008 quarter, adding steady growth to operators ARPU.
Worldwide, the U.S. is the second-largest IPTV market with some 5.6 million subs. France has 8 million. But, U.S. year-to-year growth is accelerating dramatically; it was up nearly 60 percent last year, says PT, despite cable competitors starting to aggressively boost bandwidth offerings.
"U.S. cable co's are starting to boost their bandwidth offered where they are up against fiber deployments," said Johnson. "So they have some headroom to play with in terms of bandwidth and cost/Mb. And they're starting to need it. IPTV is a bit of a funny one though, it's fighting much more entrenched competitors. Its time will come but I think it'll be slower in the U.S. than most other markets."
Report author Bosnell, meanwhile, says operators may see substantial growth as they convert more broadband users to TV customers, as have Verizon, Free, Belgacom and PCCW. Verizon, he said, now has 31 percent of its 9.2 million broadband customers as FiOS TV customers, too.
Europe continues to dominate the world market with some 50 percent of the market share and Asia (China, South Korea and Japan are Nos. 2, 3, and 4 respectively in the Top 10) will continue to grow from its current 32 percent. The Americas--at 18 percent--have plenty of room to expand as well. -Jim