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Ireland’s pay TV duopoly challenged by leading Telco

Ireland’s virtual pay TV duopoly of Sky and Liberty Global is set for its first major challenge, from an IPTV service just launched by Eircom, the former state-owned national carrier and now No. 1 Telco. Eircom becomes the first operator in Ireland to offer quadruple-play services combining broadband, pay TV, fixed telephony and cellular services, and plans to entice subscribers away from BSkyB’s satellite package and Liberty Global’s UPC Ireland cable TV services through competitively priced bundles and options. The basic TV service costs €15 per month, with a variety of optional extras, such as multiroom deployment for an extra €5 a month per room, along with HD channels for the same price and all Sky channels, including sports, for €27. Eircom is also trying to make up for lost time with its late entry to the Irish pay TV market by including DVR functionality in the set-top box with the basic package for good will, as well as free on-site installation by its engineers.

Eircom has not been willing to trust its copper infrastructure to deliver pay TV so that the service is currently confined to the 500,000 Irish households with direct access to fiber. However, Eircom is building out fiber at full steam and reckons that it will reach a total 1 million homes by June 2014.

The home platforms are provided by French IPTV and OTT set-top box vendor Netgem, including a customized program Guide and SDK (Software Development Kit), which Eircom will use to develop apps and additional interactive service components. Eircom will provide Netgem’s 7700 series set-tops for homes requiring service just from the main room, and the PVR Mediacenter 8000 series where multiroom support is required.

UK TV consultancy firm Farncombe provided operational advice and support for creation, development and launch of the TV platform.

According to regulator ComReg, BSkyB had around 600,000 Irish subscribers in 2012, and UPC Ireland had 410,000.