looking for profits from interactive television would be
wise to study the "iTV" boom in the UK and Europe.
SkyDigital in the
United Kingdom and Canal+ on the continent are driving
the evolution of interactive TV services worldwide,
asserted Andrew Wallace, vp global marketing for Pace
Micro Technology, Headquartered in the UK, Pace is the
world leader in set-top boxes for digital TV on any
services," he said, "are pushing out the envelope of what
you can do on satellite, cable, and terrestrial
broadcast, if only with a plain old telephone line return
BskyB has deployed
2.6 million SkyDigital set-top boxes, said Wallace, each
box enabled for the "Open..." iTV system from American
middleware vendor OpenTV. The conditional access control
system comes from NewsCorp subsidiary NDS. British media
researcher Millward Brown has reported that 45 percent of
all SkyDigital households with a Pace box have used
"Open" at least once.
interactive TV service over digital terrestrial
broaadcasting has deployed 552,000 digital set-top boxes
with phoneline return paths. The system uses the Canal+
MediaHighway iTV system in tandem with the Canal+
MediaGuard CA system for both free and pay
Third in the UK is
the Cable & Wireless operation, which has deployed
more than 60,000 digital set-tops enabled for interactive
cable services. These Pace boxes include a U.S. DOCSIS
cable modem for a range of iTV applications, such as
e-mail, e-commerce, news, weather, sports, travel,
education, financial, and interactive
On the continent,
he reported, France-based Canal+ has more than four
million iTV subscriber among its 13 million digital
satellite and cable customers across western
"Cable operators in
the UK and Europe have invested a lot putting in fiber,"
said Gadi Tirosh, new product manager for Israel-based
NDS. Deep cable penetration in Germany is one example of
the potential market, he noted, but as cable operators
confront the reality of the costs involved, "we're seeing
them going in for a lot of mergers and acquisitions to
achieve greater economies of scale."
"We're now seeing
all of the television operators in Europe, regardless of
the transmission platform, becoming very open to looking
at new ways to compete," said Wallace. "Over the next
five years, as the digital box becomes the home
networking terminal, we're going to see interactive TV
penetration in Europe grow from today's 15 to 20 percent
to 60 percent and eventually 90 percent penetration.
"That growth in the
UK and Europe is because there are so many competitors in
the interactive TV space," he said. " If you want the
same explosive growth in the United States, you need more
competition from televison operators on every platform --
cable, satellite, terrestrial, wireless, and phoneline.
That's the key to success."