The number of IPTV subscribers worldwide increased by 28% in 2011, slowing down from 35% in 2010. New research from Point Topic shows that at end-2011, the total number of IPTV subscribers stood at just over 58.2 million, with the numbers growing in every region.
In particular, the South and East Asia region grew by 37% in 2011, driven primarily by strong growth in China. Western Europe remains the largest IPTV market, with close to 37% of subscribers. However, this share is declining as growth accelerates in other regions, especially in Asia.
Five of the top 10 IPTV countries are in western Europe, with France at the top with a total of 11.8 million subscribers. However, China Š if Hong Kong as well as Macau and Taiwan are included Š is the leading IPTV nation, surpassing the 13 million mark.
Point Topic sees newly emerging markets such as Vietnam and Russia posting impressive annual rates as IPTV really takes off. Russian grew by 131% in 2011, pushing it into the top ten in terms of subscriber numbers and into second position overall in terms of annual growth. The Vietnamese market grew by 164% with more than 650,000 subscribers.
China (plus Hong Kong) fell just outside of the top 10 this year with only 32% annual growth, down from 53% in 2010. Although Hong Kong is nearing saturation, there remains scope for growth in the rest of the country even as growth is slowing.
Last year's growth of 28% signifies continued, solid growth which is due partly to IPTV being available to subscribers who cannot receive or don't want to receive cable or satellite. It is also down to operators being able to offer an entry-level multi-channel TV package, including catch-up TV, at a low cost to consumers. Many customers then go on to buy more premium services, such as sports channels or movies on demand. Subscriber growth is important, but the lesson from more mature IPTV markets is that ARPU growth is also achievable.
There remains lots of room for growth in China where a significant proportion of subscribers are in Shanghai and two other provinces. As other parts of the China Telecom network improve, there could be more IPTV hot-spots, although this will depend on the local cable markets in some cities.
Further accelerated growth is expected throughout the year from newly emerging IPTV markets such as Vietnam and Russia as they make their way up the league table.
For telecom operators IPTV remains the key defensive play to protect against losing customers to cable and satellite/unbundling triple-play offerings. And it is the key offensive play to attract customers who are currently using cable or satellite packages. As televisions become increasingly internet-connected, IPTV could be a very useful area of expertise for operators.
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