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Traditional Pay-TV Providers Can't Find VOD Upside

Last year, in the fall, the U.S. cable TV service providers decided to work together -- in an unprecedented collaboration effort -- to promote their collective Video-on-Demand (VoD) offerings. They agreed to invest $30 million in an advertising campaign, and they created a dedicated web site (which is now redirected to a Facebook page).

If there was increasing pay-TV subscriber interest in their offering, then they would have increased their share of the growing on-demand video market. So, what was the outcome? Across the whole U.S. market, to date about 10,000 people say they "like" the Movies on Demand brand.

Clearly, this experiment demonstrates that the traditional pay-TV sector has a very tough road ahead -- as more and more people's video entertainment needs shift away from the channel-centric pay-TV model.

Infonetics Research earlier this month released its fourth quarter 2010 (4Q10) Cable, Satellite, and IPTV Video Infrastructure and Subscribers market share and forecast report. The results are very telling.

The overall video infrastructure market was impacted by yet another decline in video-on-demand and streaming content server sales in the quarter -- as well as a slowdown in digital cable and satellite middleware sales, which are tied directly to set-top box sales.

Digital cable and satellite STB sales declined this quarter, particularly in North America -- as net subscriber growth over the last few quarters has been weak.

North American video infrastructure showed the greatest overall decline in the quarter, dropping 7 percent, after two straight quarters of revenue increases.

"North American MSOs and telco IPTV operators slowed their purchases of VOD servers as they continue to struggle with slow uptake of pay VOD programming," notes Jeff Heynen, directing analyst for broadband access at Infonetics Research.

Highlights of the latest Infonetics market study include:

- Worldwide video infrastructure revenue sequentially dipped 3 percent to $836 million in 4Q10.

- Worldwide video encoder revenue increased 10 percent and topped the $100 million mark in 4Q10, representing the third consecutive quarter of growth for MPEG-2 encoders and renewed efforts among cable operators to expand their HD channel lineups.

- Concurrent leads the worldwide video-on-demand and streaming content server market for revenue in 4Q10, followed by ZTE, SeaChange, and Cisco, as Huawei drops from the top 5.

- Operators aren't generating as much revenue from pay video-on-demand services as they would like (much of the unicast video traffic is free or is for subscription services such as HBO, Showtime, and Starz), explaining why cable operators want to be allowed to offer first-run movies earlier, as that would allow them to charge more per movie.

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