The advent of Internet protocol (IP) TV promises more choices for consumers in terms of both content and convenience and more business for satellite operators, industry officials said.
The advent of IPTV "is the beginning of a shift in the paradigm, as we move from the broadcast world to everything on demand," said Michael Kazmier, president and chief technology officer for IPTV provider Auroras, which plans to launch service trials in the United States by the end of April.
Today, there are only about one million to two million IPTV subscribers globally, concentrated mainly in Asia, but analysts are predicting that the number of IPTV subscribers could surpass 20 million around 2010. What this means for the satellite industry is a chance to grab a piece of a market that is projected to produce revenues of more than $7.2 billion in 2008.
"IPTV is a natural multicast market, so this is a terrific play for satellite," said Bryan McGuirk, president, media solutions, SES Americom. "The ability of satellites, particularly C-band, to deliver content is unrivaled. Satellite has a lot of advantages to sell and people are listening. I think IPTV and delivering in multicast is our future.
The world has changed and the satellite industry has to change with it." SES Americom is testing a satellite-based video distribution service with Bellsouth, which is launching its IP Prime service to enable telcos to bundle and distribute standard-definition and high-definition TV programming with voice and broadband services. SES Americom will provide Bellsouth with video aggregation, encoding, monitoring, and transport over the IP Prime platform. Trials will begin in the second quarter.
"This is a [delivery] format change, but you are still trying to get content to users," Jonathan Feldman, senior vice president of business development for Globecast, said. "Satellite is still the best way to feed headends in many parts of the United States. Satellite still will have a role and still is the most efficient way to more information in many places."
IPTV also will change the basic idea of content, said Rick Sanford, director, space initiatives for Cisco Systems' Global Defense, Space & Security unit. "The assumption that IPTV is limited to broadcast is wrong," he said. "The definition of content will have to be defined again. We're talking video, but there can be business uses. There are a lot of uses for IPTV that go beyond what you get with today in a broadcast push mechanism."
If IPTV develops as expected, satellite providers may not even be able to keep up with demand, said Kazmier. "Satellite people talk about a glut of space capacity, but there is not nearly enough space to deliver all we'll need to deliver when IPTV really gets going," he said. The full impact that IPTV will have on the communications landscape is unknown, but satellite operators who are ready for the transformation will reap the rewards.