Analysis & Opinion

Asian IPTV experience suggests tough job ahead for Google Fiber TV

Tony Brown, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media

Tony Brown, Senior Analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media

Based on our lengthy experience studying IPTV deployments in the cutting edge FTTH markets of the Asia Pacific region, Informa Telecoms & Media believes that with its current content line-up Google’s Fiber TV IPTV service will struggle to displace established pay TV operators from homes in its Kansas City FTTH network area.

As things stand although Google Fiber TV has brought on board many popular cable channels it is still missing many key channels – including crucial premium content such as ESPN and HBO – a shortcoming which could be critical in the fight for market dominance.

The experience of IPTV players in mature high-speed Asian broadband markets such as Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan is that it is near impossible to push incumbent pay TV operators out of subscriber homes unless you are able to replicate or even better their existing content platforms.

The best example of this is Korea Telecom (KT) which has deployed a huge war chest on rolling out IPTV – and has actually reached 3.5 million IPTV subscribers – but has failed to dislodge cable TV as subscribers primary TV service because KT’s service is still missing several critical channels.

It is a similar story in Taiwan for Chunghwa Telecom whose IPTV service has reached 1.2 million subscribers but has made minimal impact as a replacement for cable TV because, like KT, it has been unable to secure access to a host of leading channels.

As a result, the IPTV services of both KT and CHT have been relegated to secondary connections, acting mainly as a means for viewers to watch VOD and catch-up content.

Asian IPTV operators who have succeeded in winning market share from incumbents – most notably Singapore’s SingTel and Hong Kong operator PCCW – have done so by spending heavily on acquiring exclusive content which took their platform quality level with or even beyond that on offer from incumbent players.

Although Google’s Kansas City FTTH network is really only a testing ground rather than the first step of a widespread national FTTH rollout the looming battle with incumbent pay TV players in the deployment area will be hugely instructive in many areas.

Not least, it will be fascinating to see how subscribers make the trade-off between choosing the Google FTTH + IPTV double-play and the currently stronger pay TV content available from established market operators.

Lessons from the pioneering Asian markets suggest that subscribers are happy to take an IPTV service on offer from their FTTH provider – but will in the vast majority of cases choose to hang onto their existing pay TV connection to ensure they retain access to all their favourite channels.

If Google Fiber TV can actually access all the channels it needs – and just as KT or CHT how easy that is – then the game changes but that’s a very big if indeed.

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