846m pay-TV subs in 2014

Despite a depressed economy, global pay TV markets continue to grow. According to the latest market data from ABI Research, they will expand by a quarter from 2009 to 2014.

According to industry analyst Michael Inouye, cable will remain the largest pay TV platform, satellite the second-largest and telco TV the smallest (DTT aside), but the latter will show the fastest growth, more than doubling its share by 2014, albeit starting from a much smaller base. “Most of the subscribers captured by telco TV will be lured away from cable services,” he predicts.

The growth of pay TV services is driven by three major factors: the ongoing digital transition and a parallel rise in demand for premium content, new operators and offers, and new features such as interactivity, video on demand (VOD), and personal video recording (PVR).

“Interactivity is a feature mainly found in mature markets,” notes Inouye. “It's a way to try and keep subscribers who have other options. While one might expect advanced services of this kind to spread gradually from these mature markets to developing ones, the relatively low per-subscriber revenue available in some countries like China and India may prove to be a hurdle to the expansion of additional features/services.”

Pay TV market growth is occurring in spite of some opposing factors. Chief among these is the availability of low-cost alternatives and substitutes such as digital terrestrial television (DTT) especially those that pair free-to-air (FTA) content with broadband content/VOD. Online content such as that provided by Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, Vudu, and the BBC iPlayer also poses challenges.

“Pay TV providers will ultimately develop strategies best suited to their respective markets,” Inouye concludes. “Generally speaking, however, in still-developing markets often the focus is on areas such as offering additional digital channels and HD content, as well as VOD, pay-per-view, and PVR. In more mature markets, there is growing interest in developing new features and services including interactivity and in-home networking.”

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