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November 23, 2005

Broadband TV set to boom in Europe

Broadband will revolutionize the way households in Europe watch TV with video streamed over high speed internet connections becoming increasingly popular, especially in France and Italy.

By CBR Staff Writer

According to research commissioned by Screen Digest, the number of subscribers is set to hit 8.7 million in 2009 – up from 658,000 now – giving operators almost 9.5 per cent of the pay-TV market, Screen Digest said.

France and Italy are leading the way in Europe, but the UK has been slower to catch on to the trend due in part to the higher penetration by satellite TV firms such as Sky.

But according to the Screen Digest research, IPTV will pose a significant challenge to established cable and satellite operators. The impact of IPTV is predicted to be strongest in France, Italy and Spain where operators would have between a 16 per cent and 20 per cent share of the pay-TV market by 2009.

Homechoice, currently only available in the London area, is the UK’s leading IPTV service provider, but the BBC, ITV and BT are all set to break into the market next year. About 7.5 per cent of pay-TV viewers in the UK could be using IPTV in four years, Screen Digest said.

Although some technical and content issues have yet to be resolved, the combination of compelling, competitively priced triple-play offers that include true video-on-demand will prove a winning formula, said report author David Schmitt.

BT has announced plans to offer a set-top box that will allow viewers to watch their TV shows on demand. The company’s catch-up TV service will allow internet customers to watch programs shown during the previous week without needing to record them.

From next summer, customers will be able to buy boxes and then pay for certain shows, with others being free. The system is part of a wider service that will include a library of films and music and a range of digital TV channels, which BT says will be provided with no monthly subscription fee. It will initially be offered to BT’s two million broadband customers at an undisclosed price but could later be rolled out to other users.

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Meanwhile ITV is trialing an IPTV service which will offer people the chance to create their own schedules and broadcasts. Local content, including classified advertisements, will be key to the new service. The three-month trial will initially be aimed at viewers in Brighton and Hastings, although ITV plans to extend to other regions if it is deemed a success.

The BBC is also experimenting with broadband TV and is currently conducting a three month trial of its so-called Integrated Media Player (iMP). The application, utilizing peer-to-peer technology, allows people to download TV and radio programs they may have missed up to seven days after it has been broadcast.

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