Over the past decade cable television has slowly been building on a series of new technologies, says a new study by Solon, Julian Clover reports.
The bi-annual survey into the European Cable Market, conducted by the Munich-based consultancy Solon, always throws up a basketful of nuggets on the sector. The reason being that the survey speaks directly to the managers at the heart of the business, in this case 17 operators across 13 different countries.
HD is a good case in point, where Solon reveals that 50% of new set-top boxes issued to subscribers are HD capable, operators anticipating that the level will increase to 90% by 2012.
There has, according to project leader Dorothea von Wichert-Nick, been a scaling back on operators’ HD ambitions. In many ways the operators have been let down by a lack of high definition content, most markets have one or more premium channels in HD, and the likes of Eurosport, National Geographic and Discovery Channel has helped drive the market the little, but outside some national channels (and away from the UK) the market is just doddering along.
A far more attractive proposition for cablenets is video on demand, particularly catch-up TV, but the report shows that local productions dominate both transactions and revenue generated by VOD. This is particularly true for the Belgian operator Telenet, which benefits from having a limited amount of its catch-up TV content available free of charge. Could this be the opportunity for operators to break free from the Hollywood studios?
On average, cable operators are reporting a monthly average of up to 3.5 average ‘takes’ per month, a number expected to increase by 31% per annum, reaching 27 million by 2013.
Cable’s attraction to innovation also includes personal video recorders, video telephony and of course broadband, though the delivery mechanism cannot be said to have a monopoly on innovation.
Broadband and the accompanying next generation access networks can be said to have transformed the prospects for cable and arguably turned many heads away from television. However, new threats have emerged in the form of mobile broadband services, Austria, Portugal and Ireland have all, according to the survey, found mobile for fixed broadband substitution to be a reality. Small wonder that cable operators have begun to introduce their own mobile offers.
In countries that truly can be described as cable markets, such as the Netherlands or Belgium, or those where cable sits alongside the, genuine, fibre-to-the-home services cable has been able to take its share of the broadband market close to 59%, some 30% higher than markets where cable operators have not become involved in broadband, with an average broadband penetration.
Cable has had an even greater effect in Central and East Europe, accounting for more than 20% of broadband households, giving cable a lead of 50% above its DSL competitors in markets where cable penetration is at its greatest. Without the involvement of cable, says Solon, the so-called digital divide would be greater still.