The idea of Internet-based TV services is not a new one, and the arrival of options such as Fetch and the T-Box means that it's now something most people in Australia can access pretty readily. But does anyone actually give a damn?
According to analysts from research firm Frost & Sullivan, the answer is "probably not". At a recent media briefing on major trends for 2011 which I attended, Frost & Sullivan partner Nitin Bhat argued that IPTV providers had taken too long to build up a viable service and hadn't realised how the rapid emergence of YouTube and other video sharing sites means that the demand for specific channels of IPTV content would drop as a result:
There is no business case for IPTV because lots of things have changed in the last five years.
Given that many Australians are still on a connection where watching TV can be a variable experience, this might change once we see NBN-speed connections become more widely available. But even then, Frost & Sullivan doesn't see overall market penetration in Australia ever rising above 10%, and that's a best-case scenario.
A major factor in that scenario is the fact that we now increasingly watch clips on YouTube (and its competitors) rather than individual programs. That doesn't necessarily happen on a big screen; after all, we know that only a quarter of the Internet-enabled TVs that Sony sells actually end up being connected. But we can easily catch those clips on our notebooks or tablets, which appears to be more than enough for many of us.
YouTube does not attract small audiences. The site recently disclosed to media news site Mumbrella the top-rated content produced by Australians on YouTube and the weekly audience for that content in the second week of March. Here's those numbers:
To put that in perspective: a show which rates above 1 million viewers in Australia is considered a major success by the commercial networks. These numbers can't be directly compared, since the YouTube numbers cover global viewership and also reflect all the videos available on a given YouTube channel, rather than just a single program that had to be watched at a specific time. But it does demonstrate that we've got a healthy appetite for local content via the Internet, but we don't need IPTV to do it.
Have you enthusiastically embraced IPTV, or does free and easy online work better for you? Additional perspectives welcome in the comments?
Online video: Don’t think premium, think popular [Mumbrella]
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