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Mixed fortunes for IPTV in Europe

Europe’s biggest IPTV operators have reported mixed results for 2012 reflecting the differing states of their domestic economies while some have gained through presence in developing markets.

Germany's biggest telco, Deutsche Telekom, enjoyed strong domestic IPTV subscriber growth, but both Canal Plus of France and Telefonica in Spain were saved from overall decline by strong performance in Africa and Latin America respectively.

Deutsche Telekom reached almost 2 million subscribers for its domestic TV service called Entertain, which includes DTH delivery taken by 400,000 the rest being IPTV. This is a 26-percent gain on the 1.55 million at the end of 2011, accompanied by a 17.9-percent, 145,000 gain from 809,000 to 954,000 subscribers for the Telco’s operations elsewhere in central Europe.

Domestic fortunes were not so good for Spanish telecom giant Telefónica, which has been shedding IPTV subscribers in its home market for about a year, with 122,000 deserting over 2012 and reducing its Spanish IPTV customer base to 712,000. But, Latin America more than made up for the home losses despite a slowdown in growth there, with subs climbing by about 10 percent over 2012 from around 2.2 million to just over 2.4 million by the year end. This included an 8 percent growth in Chile to reach 424,000 subs, and 13 percent in Peru to reach 902,000.

The concern for Telefonica is that it can no longer assume Latin American growth will go on mopping up domestic decline. Just nine months ago, it was reporting 23 percent year-on-year growth in TV subs across Latin America to reach 2.3 million by the end of first quarter 2012. At that point, the deepening recession was just snuffing out domestic growth in Spain, having just shed 20,000 subs in the first quarter after a period of gains.

The situation is very similar for French pay TV operator Canal Plus, part of the Vivendi media group. Here, it was Africa that made up for losses on the home front. Africa accounted for most of the operator’s 227,000 overseas subs gains, which more than offset a 147,000 loss at home. This left the overall pay-TV customer base at 11.363 million and the domestic total 9.68 million.

Canal Plus had timed its return to the French-speaking African countries well after leaving the continent 17 years ago, when prospects of pay TV revenue looked very distant. It has returned with a satellite TV service, for now targeting just the 115 million people in the Francophone countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 67 million. Canal Plus is broadcasting an adapted version of its domestic package to 20 countries.

Currently, MultiChoice, owned by the South African media conglomerate Napers, is the dominant pay TV provider in sub Saharan Africa with its DSty DTH service, accounting for about 85 percent of the continent’s subscriber base apart from the northern Arab states.