VOD growth rocketing in Europe

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BRUSSELS -- More than 150 video-on-demand services are already available in the Europe, according to comprehensive figures released Friday on the fast-growing sector.

The figures, published by the Strasbourg-based European Audiovisual Observatory, show that 142 pay services were operational in the 24 European countries examined at the end of 2006. But the current figure, which includes free-access services and those set up since the start of 2007, is now well over 150. This is up from 40 at the end of 2005 and just 14 at the end of 2004.

The current market leader in the emerging European VOD sector is France, with 20 services, followed by the Netherlands (19), the U.K. (13), Germany (12) and Belgium (10).

The lion's share of services, 94, are accessed through the Internet and viewed on a computer screen. But there is increasing demand -- with 47 services available -- for broadband transmission, usually as part of an offer for the distribution of television channels in the IPTV model, in which programs can be viewed on a television screen.

Digital recorders (PVRs) are able to store satellite and digital terrestrial programs, but these services are still limited, with only seven such services available in Europe.

The EAO study says that a bewildering array of different technologies and platforms are on offer, all helping to stimulate vibrant competition among the new services. Three types of operators have emerged in the video-on-demand market: television channels offering catch-up services, making it possible to watch a program after it has been broadcast; content groups with rights catalogs; and telecom operators.

Films represent more than half the titles on offer for pay services, while new releases represent between 3% and 25% of the cinema titles, depending on the service. But the study notes that the main European movie groups have yet to announce their own services, in contrast to the U.S. where the Hollywood majors are behind the Movielink service.
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