Traditional Pay-TV service providers in saturated markets, such as North America, could use a new value-add competitive edge to counter the ongoing subscriber losses from low-cost OTT video entertainment growth. Television sets with 4K video capabilities also present a growth opportunity for pay-TV equipment vendors.
ABI Research forecasts the 4K set-top box market will quadruple in size from less than two million units in 2015 to more than 7 million in 2016, and then grow by 46 percent annually through 2021.
However, the overall pay-TV set-top box market is on the decline, expected to drop by about nine percent in 2016 to less than $16 billion in revenue -- with both pay-TV and free-to-air boxes losing value.
Pay-TV Market Development Challenges
“Digital transitions are taking longer than initially planned and the market is experiencing significant downward pressure on set-top box pricing,” said Sam Rosen, vice president at ABI Research.
According to the ABI assessment, hardware revenues will fall, but value through software and services remains an opportunity. Vendors should be looking to take on logistics and lifecycle challenges, in addition to testing and integration, to help the overall market flourish as well as focusing on 4K and HDR color set-top boxes will in the years ahead.
Set-top box vendors are increasing in scale due to recent mergers and acquisitions, including market leader Arris taking over Pace and Technicolor acquiring the Cisco set-top box unit. Additionally, Huawei, at just more than $1 billion in revenues, leaped ahead of a number of vendors that faced a difficult year with drops of 25 to 40 percent in revenues, including EchoStar and Humax.
Seeking New Opportunities in Emerging Markets
Regionally, China, which overtook the U.S. as the largest set-top box market by units in 2010, remains in the lead. India beat out the U.S. just last year as a failed digital cable transition spurred a large amount of satellite set-top box shipments.
Given market circumstances, ABI Research predicts India will continue to grow its set-top box shipments and likely surpass China as shipment leader in 2018 or 2019.
"Significant market consolidation already occurred," concludes Rosen. "Pay-TV operators worldwide are now carefully considering new opportunities to deliver video services, specifically through the use of streaming media adapters and adaptive bitrate, better known as ABR, IP-based protocols."
ABI analysts believe that it's important to note that satellite broadcast remains a significant factor in pay-TV distribution while terrestrial platforms -- augmented by set-top boxes with some storage and advanced IP services -- are becoming important for select telco operators who are backing away from licensing content.