BT has revealed further details about its proposed broadband television strategy amid increasing interest in internet protocol television (IPTV).
Giving the keynote presentation at the inaugural IPTV World Forum conference in London, BT Entertainment chief Andrew Burke told delegates that broadband could not compete with broadcast economics.
"It supplements broadcast. That's a religion in BT." BT's solution will be to create a hybrid, combining broadcast and on-demand programming. "If you have an EPG that seamlessly pulls that together we believe that you have a proposition that is very attractive."
There was concern at the conference that telcos do not have core competencies in content and rights negotiations. Burke stressed "BT is not a media company," saying that it would be very much a partnership strategy.
"All the elements exist to create a unique, robust and commercially viable broadband to TV proposition in the UK," said Burke. And he revealed that he is already watching it most nights as part of an internal trial. "It's working," he said, "but making it work does not make it a good proposition."
Many Londoners can already receive IPTV. Roger Lynch, the chairman of Video Networks which provides the HomeChoice service, would not be drawn on any numbers, beyond previously announced figures of 15,000 subscribers.
Pointing to the success of operators such as FastWeb in Italy, he argued that "right now this is a new entrant game".
Expanding the service beyond London will require an investment partnership which is apparently in process, although he added that "we can make a profitable business in London on quite low penetration rates".
Meanwhile, delegates heard that in Hong Kong, providers such as City Telecom offer IPTV along with broadband at speeds of up to 100 Mbps, with 1 Gbps available later this year.
Paul Berriman of PCCW, which offers another successful service known as Now broadband TV, suggested that any phone company contemplating video services should look at what they are good at—basically building bandwidth and billing people.
David Harrison, of the communications regulator Ofcom, warned that "we need to recognise that conventional linear broadcasting is not the future". Ofcom's head of broadcast and new media technology said the drop in the share of viewing of BBC channels in Sky homes had profound consequences for the future funding of public service broadcasting.
"It will be completely broken by 2010. We need a new model".
Harrison said Ofcom's proposed Public Service Publisher was an opportunity for IPTV. He emphasised that this would not necessarily be a new broadcast channel. But this would require "a radical rethink about our regulatory approach" and he said that the current non-regulated status of the internet would become increasingly challenged.
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