Germany lagging behind in IPTV boom

Telco giant Deutsche Telekom to roll out interactive service

DUSSELDORF, Germany -- In the world of IPTV, the German market is still the online equivalent of public access cable.

Lacking the 800-pound gorilla that is Hulu in the U.S. or BBC's iPlayer in the U.K., the online video business in Europe's No. 1 TV market remains in its infancy.

An upcoming study by Berlin-based consultancy Goldmedia found that by 2014, less than 8% of German households will use Internet TV, suggesting it will remain a niche market here for some time to come.

But that isn't the opinion of Deutsche Telekom, which in the coming weeks will roll out an interactive service that is betting heavily on a growth market for IPTV.

The service aims to provide exclusive online video content -- such as live soccer matches from Germany's Bundesliga -- along with open-access material on demand to all of Telekom's mobile, online and digital TV platforms.

Speaking at a Wednesday conference co-sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter and German media consultancy HMR, Harald Eisenacher, Telekom's head of products and innovation, said the company has agreements with some 350 content providers to feed its IPTV machine.

These range from the major film studios -- with which Telekom has output deals for online content -- to German production outfits that supply Telekom's new stand-alone Web series portal

Telekom owns T-Online, Germany's largest Internet provider, and T-Mobile, the country's No. 1 mobile carrier and exclusive iPhone partner. Linking up those millions of customers with a unified online video service could be the 800-pound gorilla German IPTV has been looking for.

Even Goldmedia's study concedes that Telekom, with its 10 million broadband customers, is the only player in Germany likely to make IPTV as a business. The study forecasts Telekom turning a profit with Internet TV within the next four years.