IPTV makes big gains in '07


BRUSSELS -- Global IPTV subscriptions leapt 117% last year to reach 12.3 million, up from 5.7 million at the end of 2006, according to research released Tuesday.

More than half of that number came from Western Europe, which boasted 6.9 million IPTV subscribers in 2007, Informa Telecoms and Media said in a report.

The lion's share of European subscribers are in France, where incumbent France Telecom and alternative operators Free, Neuf and Telecom Italia's Alice, picked up more than 5 million IPTV customers by bundling the service free with broadband. While many of these subscribers may not be paying for additional content, they nonetheless receive free-to-air channels with their basic triple-play packages.

The numbers show France claiming nearly 10 times as many as second-place Spain, and nearly 75% of Western Europe's total. By contrast, some of Europe's other major operators are still stuck with modest bases, although Deutsche Telekom and BT more than doubled their subscriber numbers -- to more than 100,000 each.

"2007 was a watershed year for IPTV as many Western European telcos launched full packages," Informa analyst Simon Murray said. "It will be interesting to note their approach to IPTV in the future: whether it is used to increase customer loyalty or whether it is a genuine money-making stand-alone service."

Elsewhere, China, with 1 million subscribers, is seeing the fastest adoption in the Asia-Pacific region. However, this is still slightly fewer than in Hong Kong, which is now the world's most mature IPTV market, serving TV to 60% of DSL customers.

The U.S. managed to add more than 1 million customers in 2007, largely on the back of rollouts led by Verizon and AT&T Broadband.

The Informa report said that, while the figures show a sharp take-up, IPTV is still in its infancy, representing less than 3% of all global multichannel subscribers.

Last year, Informa forecast there would be 38.4 million global IPTV subscribers by 2012, generating $14.7 billion annually.