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A Skeptical View of IPTV Market Projections

The number of IPTV subscribers is predicted to reach 48.8 million worldwide in 2010, according to market reseach analyst Gartner.

Gartner expects subscribers to view telco TV services at more than double next year -- from 6.4 million in 2006 to 13.3 million -- on the back of new service launches from the likes of BT, which is set to debut its Vision IPTV service later this year. Another recent entrant into the space is Tiscali, which last month confirmed its acquisition of Homechoice.

Gartner says the eight-fold increase in IPTV adoption to 2010 will be driven by service providers cutting prices to lure customers away from cable and satellite offerings. As a result, global IPTV revenue will be less impressive than subscriber growth, it said -- rising modestly from $872 million in 2006 to $13.2 billion by 2010.

According to Gartner, Western Europe currently leads the world for IPTV adoption -- boasting 1.6 million total subscribers to-date -- with the French being the biggest consumers of IPTV in the region. Gartner defines IPTV as the delivery of video over a carrier's broadband network to a TV set. It does not include streaming media over the public Internet to a PC.

A separate study from research company iSuppli recently predicted IPTV subscriber penetration will reach 63 million by 2010. However, unless the telcos can find a substantive way to differentiate their video entertainment services, other than a very low priced offer, I anticipate that IPTV market projections will decline from the current estimates. The IPTV anticlimax could lead to a change of heart.

In particular, investors in U.S. telco stocks could quickly tire of the implications from the current zero-sum IPTV business model, where the high costs of each new customer addition essentially equates to a greater decline in overall operational profit margins.

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