Is It Game Over Already For IPTV?

Is It Game Over Already For IPTV?

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]

Lifehacker’s weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.


  • Does ABC’s iView fall into the category of IPTV for current purposes?

    I thought it had been something of a success for ABC and I know I use it a fair bit.

    Then again it’s less an always-on broadcast and more an on-demand video service – perhaps that’s a better way to go for these providers?

  • Our biggest problem in the near future is going to be the big networks – they own all the Australian rights to the content people want to watch, but unfortunately the best methods of watching that content completely undermine their business models.

    Like many geeks I find the idea of waiting for a particular time of the week to watch the latest episode of a show I like to be on par with a horse & buggy as a method of transport. As the technology gets simpler for end users that feeling is going to grow.

    We need solutions like Hulu and Netflix (which are doing a great job of getting themselves on to devices people already have plugged in to their TV’s), but the rights issues are so complicated we’re going to be stuck in the 90’s for a long while yet.

    Unfortunately, Channel BT still provides the best product for Australians. I’m sure many would happily pay rather than pirate, but until legal options actually start competing with the timeliness and flexibility of BT, it’s just not going to happen.

  • Its Australia….we’re the best country at sticking with the old unless its broken or everyone else has changed….we’d be in caves still if others didn’t move out first

    • I haven’t seen any recent figures, but a couple of years ago Australia had the highest rate of tv/movie piracy online per capita of any western country. This was largely attributable to the fact we’re quite high technologically/economically and we import most of our TV after severe delays.

      The cause is up to argument (TV stations delaying imports, lack of locally produced content, australians being cheap) but the fact is that we’re a prime market for a decent video-on-demand service. We’re not behind the curve here, we just don’t have the viable legal alternatives that other countries have.

      At least we have iview. It may have a dodgy flash interface, but it makes it so easy for me to catch good shows that are on at awkward times.

    • Actually, Australia has one of the quickest rates of change when it comes to adopting new technologies, at least once they’re readily available. We were one of the quickest markets to switch to DVDs over VHS, and similarly with mobiles. We might not get the latest innovations as quick as we like, but once it’s here it tends to sweep through quickly.

  • I think this article doesn’t really explain what IPTV is and why YouTube is a competitor. YouTube has original content however, it’s primarily user generated.

    IPTV is about the delivery of linear TV (and VOD) via a managed connection (DSL or Fiber).

    YouTube is streaming over the public Internet, and it doesn’t have live TV or even (many) professional content for rent or sale.

  • Question is the big media-owner Rupert Murdoch behind this? He is probably aiming at that and the delay of the NBN-network rolout, that makes real video on demand possible with mor choice than what these mentioned companies provide. Don’t forget that only very few people live close enough to their phone-exchange to get ADSL2 that is the minimum.
    People want to choose themselves, and nobody is the same, look at the number of satelite dishes in town!

  • How many channels does a person need? Already there are sixty billion channels with nothing to watch. I can flip channels while having dinner and stumble upon nothing decent to watch. So normally my dinner TV watching is spent flipping channels.

    • Channel flipping looking for something to watch will usually be a futile exercise. With dozens of channels, even if you find something mildly interesting that you wouldn’t mind watching the temptation is to keep going to see if there is something better. A much better solution is to use a Personal Video Recorder, whether in a steel box or on your PC, then select your favourite shows to automatically record. You’ll always have something to watch and never have to watch live TV (or ads) again.

      The potential I see in IPTV is for the better PayTV channels to break away from Foxtel/Austar and go it alone. Channels with a huge following like the Country Music Channel would be a big success by themselves. I won’t pay $44 a month for Austar but I would pay $15 a month just for CMC.

  • As has been stated, avaliability and timeliness are two of the biggest issues surround this type of content delivery mechanisms.

    I would also venture to say that the cost is going to be another.

    Apart from the cost of the service, you have to take into account the cost of the bandwidth. What about replayability? Do I need to pay of the episode twice?? Would I need to download it twice??

  • Let me preface this by saying that I am an American living in Australia so I have seen both the American and Australian approaches to IPTV.

    The first problem that stands in the way of content consumption the way that consumers demand is the rights holder mess including delays for content. Most of the issues related to that go directly to how shows are paid for in the first place so it is a tough issue.

    The second problem is the download cap silliness that pervades the Australian internet offerings.

    The third point is that until TVs can be connected with no real configuration to a home network adoption will be slow. T-Boxes have possibly the worst interface design of any device that I have seen (and the remote don’t get me started). Until the user experience becomes as easy as plugging your TV into the antenna and turning it on these fledgling gateways to IPTV will flounder. Look what apple has done and learn Telstra.

    The last problem is affordability for whatever reason media content in Australia is very expensive. I find it humorous that people still buy physical DVDs and CDs here. There are even stores that stock those items as their main draw… No wonder pirating is rampant as there is no affordable alternative. 20 bucks for a dvd who are you kidding? Feel like 1998 anybody?

    IPTV is the future, and the traditional content vendors will be dragged kicking and screaming, but they will have to join up or they will lose to an increasingly globalized media consumption paradigm.

    One thing that worries me is that in Australia your media outlets are even cosier to the government than in the US. Parallel import laws will continue to be a problem as will the inane classification system and possible NBN filtering.

    Until those issues start to get sorted out a real IPTV solution that makes economic sense is a ways off, which just means that Bitorrent will continue to get people used to the erroneous idea that content should be free.

  • I am visiting Bosnia currently, and even they have started a IPTV service which is better than what we have in Australia. On ADSL via IPTV box they have around 80 channels, with a mix of local channels and international. Why is it so hard for Australian company to deliver HD/SD via IPTV eg ch9/ch10 along with extra channels and international ones..

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