Europe Leads Growth in IPTV Use, Study Finds

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Delivery of TV programming over Internet Protocol connections (IPTV) is growing at rapid pace, with the number of subscribers more than doubling for the second year running, according to a report from industry organization The Broadband Forum.

At the end of the first quarter the number of subscribers had grown to 15.4 million, compared to 7.2 million at the same time last year, an increase of about 53 percent.

Europe is currently the strongest force behind IPTV growth, and the largest IPTV market by a mile: 8.4 million subscribers reside in Europe, compared to 3.9 million during the first quarter of 2007.

The success in Europe has to do with several factors. In France, attractive pricing in combination with low cable penetration has helped France Télécom and independent Internet service provider Free, according to John Bosnell, senior analyst at Point Topic, the author of the report.

But other markets are also starting to take off. Asia-Pacific is the second-largest market with 2.6 million, and North America is close behind at third place with 2.3 million subscribers, up from 1.1 million and 850,000 customers respectively.

The IPTV market is still to a large extent in its infancy, but operators around the world have shown that systems are scalable and can handle rapid growth in subscriber numbers, according to John Bosnell, senior analyst at Point Topic, the authors of the report.

There is still a lot of room for growth: There are over 280 million fiber and DSL subscribers around the world, and many markets are still largely untapped. The key to growth is different around the world. In Europe, operators have to find the right content and pricing to compete with cable operators. In the U.S., carriers have to continue to expand fiber coverage, and in South Korea and Japan regulators have to let IPTV compete on equal terms, according to Bosnell.

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