I’m on my way back to Boston,after spending 2 days at the Telco TV event in Orlando, a somewhat small--but nonetheless impressive--show focused on the IPTV space. I’m posting this online at 35,000 feet, which is one of the few places I don’t particularly mind (or at least won’t audibly complain about) paying for connectivity.
My overall takeaway from the show is that IPTV still has a long way to go--and I feel like I say that every year at this time. A few notes and observations from the keynote sessions, workshops, and meetings:
What have you done for me lately?
For years, we’ve been hearing about the promise of IPTV, and the jaw-dropping array of services and applications it will ultimately deliver. The potential and promise of IPTV has been widely hyped. Jeff Weber, VP of Video Products at AT&T, suggested that IPTV’s upside is “beyond our understanding.” The question remains, though, what has the technology delivered?
Research we recently published confirms the strong growth opportunities for IPTV in the US—that growth, however, is dependent on a few basic conditions, including sustainable customer take up, and achievable and meaningful differentiation. The “me too” services won’t cut it anymore.
Um…the datestamp on that slide is “2005”
Sadly, the slideware on display at this year’s keynotes and sessions might as well have been from five years ago. The same tired slides and examples keep showing up again and again, presented as “innovative” and “new.” These include on-screen Caller ID (a curious notion in the first place, given the rapid decline of residential landlines, and the inherently personal nature of telephone communication), customizable EPG skins (really??), multiview, and remote DVR programming.
Not exactly earth shattering stuff.
Is there an app for that?
While IPTV may not fully realize its full potential for several years, the general consensus seems to be that the likely path to innovation in the space may come through the open “widgetization.” Drawing parallels to iPhone apps, proponents of this theory foresee a flood of new applications migrating to the television screen. Whether or not these can be (or should be) monetized remains another question. It does loop back to the fundamental question: how to compel a consumer to move to IPTV.
No first mover advantage
IPTV represents the first time in the Telcos’ history that they have been second to market…indeed, they enjoyed near or complete platform monopolies for decades. Television has a long and storied past, and consumers have developed a set of expectations and quality thresholds. Having to build to a set high-water mark is no easy task. And they have to do more than replicate what the cable companies are offering—to be successful, they have to surpass it.
What the Telcos have in their favor, however, is a long legacy of delivering “five nines” quality to consumers; an established brand and existing customer base.
The challenge is in meshing the two pieces together: harnessing the experience and success of the past, while simultaneously changing the fundamental Telco mindset from one of a monopolistic utility provider to that of a competitive provider of services.