Like all incumbent telephony operators, Dutch KPN is losing fixed line customers to alternative providers, with cable being the most formidable competitor. Thanks to DOCSIS 3.0 technology, cable is now able to offer much better broadband access at speeds higher than traditional ADSL. In The Netherlands, UPC is exploiting this advantage with the current ‘cable is better’ campaign.
In most countries, the incumbents are fighting back by starting to offer IPTV services. Unfortunately, this is a ‘me too’ product, which is very difficult to distinguish from traditional cable. One way to do it is by acquiring exclusive, compelling content. The national football league, for instance – a tactic employed by Belgacom, Deutsche Telekom and, a couple of years ago, Versatel (Now Tele 2) in Holland.
KPN came relatively late to the game with its IPTV product and live football is not an option anymore. The Dutch football league now has its own channel, Eredivisie Live, which is available across all platforms. Earlier attempts at entering the content market, including a joint venture with Endemol, were not successful.
At the time of the introduction of the KPN IPTV service, the focus was on such functions such as ‘pause live TV’, but with the advanced cable networks as competitors this was hardly an USP. On the contrary, with the majority of Dutch cable networks being two-way enabled, all operators can offer advanced PVR and on-demand services.
This left KPN with testing its (technical and legal) limits in order to offer innovative services. The first step was the introduction of network-PVR.
The move made KPN one of the first operators – if not the first – in Europe to use this technology, which is regarded to be highly controversial among broadcasters and content owners.
Until now, broadcasters have refrained from taking any action, but are aware of the situation. In an emailed statement, BBC Worldwide told Broadband TV News “KPN have informed us that they plan to offer their subscribers a Network PVR service. KPN have confirmed to us that their service will comply with Dutch copyright law.”
Now, KPN has started another innovative service – streaming live channels to the iPad and laptops. For the moment, it is only available in the home, not on the road (so no TV Everywhere equivalent yet). Again, content owners are wary of such services. In the US, studios are trying to stop platforms from offering such streaming services without additional payments.
The two moves are remarkable – and incumbent operators are not exactly known for their innovations – and they might have limited ‘street credibility’ with early adapters. It will be very interesting to see if KPN will succeed in convincing customers that their TV offering beats that of cable. Or will they just pave the way for the other platforms to also start offering such new services? Ziggo, for one, is very eager to launch network PVR and TV Everywhere and is already running technology tests.