Operators seem to all copy each other in any given market; in France it is blatant.
Since Free created the 29,99€ “as much as you can eat” price-point in 2001, adding TV in 2003 content has been one of the main messages behind most ad campaigns for triple-play bundles. At least this was true until this year.
Two years ago, Bouygues Telecom came out with one of the world’s first quad play offers priced at 44,90€ per month 2 years ago, but they still only have a small TV footprint.
After a long battle, Orange, the incumbent here, gained regulatory authorization to also launch quad-play this summer.
SFR, part owned by Vodafone, is ready to launch a quad play offer, but so far has just added a VoIP to mobile option to its existing triple play and is still waiting to see how things pan out.
It has become more and more evident that Orange is moving out of content in the big exclusive way it had been pushing since 2004. In September 2010, all of Orange's 5 exclusive cinema/series channels and its Sports channel were officially put up for sale. We still don't know the outcome.
So now, as if in unison, the 3 major operators have dropped content and TV related messages from their 2010 multi-play ad campaigns.
SFR is focusing on customer service with a free Hotline. Free has also focused on a message about getting more and more service for always the same price as well as a second message about how much more (geeky) fun Free is.
Whereas Orange used to aggressively promote its own content and interactive TV features, they now only mention TV as one of many features.
The immediate conclusion to draw is that IPTV has become a commodity here. Most other mass-market commodities like water and electricity are delivered by monopolies despite the government’s best efforts to create a competitive environment. Could that mean that IPTV is one of those water-like “natural monopolies”?
But wondering about delivering say water or electricity to a household, are there any conceivable situations under which they are delivered at a loss? The answer is clearly no.
The land-grab rush for IPTV is now over and it seems we’re entering a cost control period. The official reason Orange’s new CEO Stéphane Richard gave for pulling out of exclusive living room cinema and sports, is that his company was loosing 150M€ a year on each.
What will a period of cost cutting do to IPTV? The future is all of a sudden looking a lot less clear for IPTV in France. Anyone who has actually built an IPTV business model knows that to make it float, a little creativity is required. Cost-cutters are not creative people!
It’s a moot point as to whether or not turning back is an option. Is it possible to pose the un-thinkable question for many in the industry: “could a triple-play provider, simply pull out of TV?”
One small reason for hope has a little sting in the tail.
French fibre rollout has been stopping and starting for almost five years. About a million homes are now passed. Yet only 10% of those homes are taking up a fibre service. It seems the culprit is a sluggish commercial approach from the operators. Indeed, I know there is fibre in my street in the west of Paris, but I have had no luck finding somewhere to subscribe. French operators are milking the DSL cash cow and more significantly, they haven’t yet figured how to sell fibre more expensively than DSL except to a few geeks.
The sting here is that instead of becoming the great USP to justify higher prices, the TV component for triple-play is now perceived as an expensive commodity operators have to provide, but haven’t been able to get any money from. Fibre was supposed to change all that with multiple full HD channels galore, but the wind seams to no longer be powering the sails of that dream.
We are in the age of OTT with devices available over-the-shelf that people can pick-up in the high street. France is still the most innovative IPTV market place. Despite the global 3D flop, which I saw coming before the summer (see here), the first-ever commercial 3D IPTV service was just announced in France by Dorcel for adult on demand content.
Clever operators will be those that stop trying to do it all themselves, recognize their weaknesses and concentrate on their strengths. This means building an ecosystem of suppliers where the end customer is no longer someone representing just ARPU or churn, but a stakeholder with a say in the ecosystem. It’s her living room everyone is fighting over, so give her a say. If she wants to add say an Apple-TV to her cable subscription, then make sure you help her do that. If she asks you for a hybrid box that has all the home networking features bar coffee-making, make sure you have a partner to provide one. If she only wants access to FTA channels, have a deal ready with the cheapest zapper box maker for your market.
It’s is not official yet, but my clear vision is that IPTV, as a walled garden service delivered by Telcos into the living room, is indeed dying a slow death here in France. But long live TV over IP in its many new forms. As it’s getting to be quite a jungle out there with the likes of Google entering the fray, an ISP, satellite operators or phone company close to home might be just the person needed to help cope in this brave new TV world.
[UPDATE March 11 2011] After a really interesting debate on this topic on LinkedIn, good news from the IP&TV World Forum organizers (Gavin Whitechurch). We have a slot to discuss this over breakfast in person at Olympia, Thursday 24th March 8AM. Hope you can make it.
7 thoughts on “Could France, the birthplace of mass IPTV adoption, also be its resting place?”
I personally believe that we are going to see the death of IPTV. Just like we see the end of Cable TV, Satellite TV etc. This is birth of ‘its just TV’, and the method of delivery is only of interest to a very small techy minority. Fibre, DSL etc matters not to the consumer. Only the service matters, and the growth in traditional TV visitors to the IPTV WF that I saw this year backs that up and IPTV only operators can only suffer because they will lose what is important to the consumer – the content – to the operators who have the scale.
[…] had an exciting LinkedIn debate with 60 contributions so far. It came in response to a blog on the death of IPTV in France that I published on my site. Then for much of the last day I’ll be wearing a consultant’s hat […]
Just updated, if you hadn’t seen the LinkedIn thread on this debate, there’ll be a breakfast meeting to discuss in Person at IP&TV WF in London week after next (24th 8AM).
DWG thanks for spotting the Cut/paste error!
“In September 2010 that all exclusive channels were officially but on the market” now reads:
In September 2010, all of Oranges’ 5 exclusive cinema/series channels and its Sports channel were officially for sale. We still don’t know the outcome.”.
Can you please revised or explain this sentence? “In September 2010 that all exclusive channels were officially but on the market.” thanks !!
Tout à fait d’accord sur tout les points.
Merci pour cette analyse.
Nice overview – I do live in France and am equipped with 8MBps but had to install a Satellite Dish to get the Orange IPTV Offer and this is the case for many. As a result you watch the DTT content via satellite (TF1 announed 97% viewing figures in 2010) and not the IPTV as it is a cunbersome, clunky and ridiculous interface. The ISP (Orange) is up and down like a yo-yo…It is on my bill as part of my subscription but I NEVER EVER use it…Doing a small local survey it was the same scenario amongst many of my neighbours and friends all over France. Furthermore the DTT Offer started V.O. programming in HD and that is pretty interesting too and steals eyeballs. France is a complex TV market.
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