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Blur Between Entertainment, Communications

The Hollywood Reporter has an insightful editorial by Andrew Wallenstein entitled "Mixing Media" that features how giant cable companies are duking it out with the nation's telcos to see who can provide the most comprehensive phone, broadband, video and mobile services to tech-savvy consumers.

Within the column, several industry analysts share their best estimates regarding the end-of-year telco IPTV penetration in the U.S. market. The results are very low -- with one predicting that telcos are projected to have far fewer than 1 percent of TV subscribers by year's end, and only 6 percent by 2009.

But the real action is still to come. What is known as a bundle today will seem primitive in a few years, when companies will combine not only the billing for multiple services but also the services themselves.

The Bells and Big Cable are intent on integrating the computer, phone and television in ways that will blur the boundary between entertainment and communications. That means customers won't simply watch their favorite TV channels on their mobile phones; soon enough, they'll be answering their phones through their TV sets.

"For a long time, the triple play of voice, video and data was going to be enough," says Matthew Davis, program director of consumer multiplay services at research firm IDC. "The problem is that the world is changing so fast that there's new complexities coming into it."

The implications of the quadruple play are not only being felt in the U.S. but also taking various shapes in Europe at such companies as France Telecom, which is marketing all four services under the Orange brand, and British cable provider NTL, which is expected to follow suit once its acquisition of Virgin Mobile is complete.

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