Data from TeleGeography show that at the end of Q3 2011 telcos worldwide had a total of 94 million pay-TV subscribers, giving them a 12 per cent share of the global pay-TV market. Leading the telco charge is America Movil with ten million pay-TV subscribers, thanks to a dominant market position in Brazil and Colombia and substantial pay-TV operations in several other Latin American countries. It is followed by China Telecom and Rostelecom, both of which focus solely on their home markets, and France Telecom-Orange which has pay-TV operations in Poland, Spain and Slovakia in addition to being one of the leaders in the French market.
While telcos’ pay-TV activities are commonly equated with IPTV, that is only a part of the story. Many telcos have clearly identified IPTV as being important both strategically and tactically, but it accounts for less than 60 per cent of their pay-TV subscribers. Several telcos are investing heavily in cable TV and satellite DTH operations, while pay-DTT and some residual MMDS services are also part of the mix. As examples, America Movil has achieved its leadership position by developing or acquiring cable and DTH businesses, and it has hardly any IPTV interests; and number three ranked telco Rostelecom can thank cable TV for providing 85 per cent of its pay-TV subscriber base.
However, IPTV remains a crucial factor in the telco sector’s pay-TV growth prospects, as TeleGeography’s John Dinsdale points out: “Looking to the future there is no doubt that telcos will further increase their share of the pay-TV market. While telcos will continue to invest in cable and DTH operations, over the next five years it will primarily be strong IPTV growth that enables them to gain market share. We forecast that the IPTV subscriber base will have doubled in size by the end of 2016, which will help telcos gain control of some 16 per cent of the pay-TV market.