IPTV, VOD set for 2010 take-off

Proliferation of content and channels emerging in Australia

SYDNEY -- IPTV and video on demand services are set to explode in Australia next year, with Malaysian broadcaster Astro All Asia Networks investing in one of a raft of new players set to enter the market.

Sources close to Astro confirmed this week that the company is the largest minority investor in FetchTV, a new IPTV wholesale service that will offer on demand content and a set-top box enabling broadband connections to TV’s via Australian ISP’s.

As the Australian government’s planned rollout of a National Broadband Network takes shape, both telecommunications and media companies are positioning to take a piece of the IPTV pie.

Along with Fetch TV, Telstra, already the majority shareholder in pay-TV giant Foxtel, recently announced it will trial a new broadband enabled set-top box, the Tbox, a PVR which includes integrated access to Telstra’s BigPond Internet TV channels and a movie download store.

The T-Box's offerings would be "complementary" to the channels available on Foxtel, Telstra executive Holly Kramer said. At the same time Telstra competitors, ISPs iinet and Internode confirmed they are planning IPTV services for 2010.

On the content side, online movie rental company Quickflix, part-owned by Lachlan Murdoch, is planning a digital download and VOD service while the Australian Broadcasting Corp and Sony Computer Entertainment Australia this month announced a tie up where the ABC online catch up TV service, iView, will be available through Sony’s Playstation gaming console. The PS3 in Australia also acts as digital set-top box and PVR.

TiVo here this month upgraded its PVR and is offering users a proprietary video on demand download service its called CASPA and, separately, each of the free to air networks have committed to expanding significantly their online catch up TV services in 2010.

Pay service Foxtel meanwhile said it's enjoying solid use of its Foxtel by Broadband service.
Industry sources here say that the flurry of announcement indicate a “bridging strategy” by companies keen to offer entertainment services on the NBN when it is rolled out in the next seven years.

Still to be determined however is where all the content comes from to feed the new services.

That’s where companies like Astro come in with “content clout” and long-term partnerships in the region, that make it a significant player, according to industry observers.

A recent report from local research group Telsyte said that a recent study shows that consumers will pay for quality content.

“Right now, the most common model is that [customers] can download pre-selected content unmetered…but going forward,we think there’s real money to be made in terms of delivering really interactive, on-demand, IPTV – if [carriers] fine-tune their model a bit further,” the Telsyte report said.