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Satellite increases lead over cable in Europe

While IPTV is still Europe’s fastest growing TV sector, satellite has strengthened its hold at the top with cable operators being squeezed but still enjoying revenue gains by increasing ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).

Among Europe’s 249 million TV households, 85 million TV homes received their signal from satellites at the end of 2012, up from 84 million a year earlier, while cable dropped from 69 million to 68 million and IPTV rose from 16 million to 17.5 million homes over the same period. The latest market monitor report from Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES also reported a slight fall in number of terrestrial TV homes from 79 million to 78 million over that year.

The SES survey also highlighted how most content received by cable, terrestrial and IPTV subscribers is beamed via satellite to their networks. SES alone transmits to 143 million European homes one way or the other, accounting for 73 percent of satellite homes, 90 percent of IPTV and 95 percent of cable.

Naturally, HD penetration increased over the year across all sectors, rising from 29 million to 35 million satellite homes. The survey also showed that free satellite services were growing more strongly than paid ones, up by 55 percent over the last four years to 41.75 million. It also noted that Germany was last to switch off analog, in April 2012, so that all Europe’s satellite homes are now digital.

Meanwhile, analyst firm IHS Screen Digest has pointed out that although cable was losing households through churn, expansion of multi-play services meant that the number of RGUs (Revenue Generating Units) was still going up, standing now at 126 million. As a result, cable ARPU was up 4.3 percent at €25.97 over the year.

Over the next five years, though, IPTV will be the fastest growing sector by some distance, according to a different forecast by Pyramid Research. IPTV subscription will pass 100 million in 2013 and soar to 181 million in 2017, according to the firm’s latest Research in Focus: IPTV study, which suggested IPTV’s share of global pay TV subscriptions will rise from 9.3 percent in 2012 to 15.8 percent in 2017.

According to Pyramid’s stats, China, France and the U.S. were the largest IPTV markets in 2012, each having over 10 million subscribers and accounting for 53 percent of global IPTV subs between them.