Let Battle Commence

Whereas there are significant IPTV players in Spain, France and Italy, the concept has struggled somewhat in Germany and the Netherlands and is yet to be proven in Switzerland with the launch of Bluewin TV.

But perhaps the most interesting European market has to be the UK, where two major roll out are underway as BT make their Vision service available and Tiscali roll out their recently acquired HomeChoice service.

But the UK has three very strong incumbents - the recently merged Virgin Media (encompassing NTL and Telewest), Sky and the Freeview digital terrestrial service.

Already, the cost of rights are being inflated and the services are all becoming commoditised.

The company facing the most uphill battle is Tiscali, who are small and poorly resourced compared to rivals; HomeChoice was always technically good, but never managed any real market penetration. The bargain basket price of £14.99 for a dual play of broadband and TV when Tiscali TV launches in major UK urban areas on 1st March is an indication of how tough it's going to be to make money from this market. They are targeting 500,000 users, but with just 30 channels and some on demand BBC programming the service is extremely poor compared to the competition.

I, for one, would jump at Tiscali TV (they already provide broadband and telephony to me in my Welsh home) because Sky is the only vendor in that rural backwater (not even terrestrial TV works), but, guess what ? The local loop is controlled by BT, not Tiscali, so their TV service won't be available.

When will the niche players learn to target their services at niches - tower blocks without Sky access; areas of London such as Westminster and Wandsworth without cable access and rural areas. Instead, they are going to slog it out with the big boys.

Good luck to them is all I can say...