Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Is there a future for IPTV in China?

I visited my aunt in Tianjin during the Chinese New Year. To my surprise, her home is already equipped with three television sets, one carried with satellite channels, and the other two are equipped with digital channels.Pretty advanced among all Chinese families, however, my uncle still complained on the channles the family have.

"The satellite one has a lot of nonsense channels such as channels from Middle East or Europe and we couldn't understand even a single word, while we have to pay as much as 20 yuan per month each to the two other sets". My uncle said he will be pretty confused on if he should add another set some day to watch the nonsense satellite TV or pay another 20 yuan per month to add it into the digital channel as required.

With hundreds of TV channels available, we still ended up at watching CCTV 1 together, the general channel you could see even in the most distant corner of China. I couldn't watch Bloomberg though the satellite provides it because none of my other family member could understand it. That's called compromise.

In China, the tradition is still for families to watch TV together after the dinner. I couldn't imagine three or four family members(the normal number for a single family) to watch TV in eachone's bedroom. You could choose not to watch TV, but watching a different one in the different room will be considered as unloyal to the family.

That's exactly what I did. I will watch the "national geography" with my father though I don't really like it. I just enjoy the feeling of watching and talking together. That's why family means.

A bit out of the track. Here back to IPTV, transfering the TV through the telecom network. The technial working theory is the same, but the culture is different. A family could own one single TV, but it is rare that a family could own one mobile handset or talk on the fixed-line phone together. So it leads to the different business operation practices. Telecom operators couldn't just copy their business practice in telecom industry to the TV industry.

Reuters reported today that "BesTV, a Web TV joint service between China's largest fixed-line company China Telecom Corp. and Shanghai Media Group, is talking to potential foreign media partners as it eyes a three-fold rise in viewers by year-end." It is not new, in fact; it was reported earlier that an Australian software provider would invest $7 million to set up a channel on the BesTV on the health development. On one hand, it shows the shortage of content for Chinese operators; on the other hand, it tells that the market need more specialised professionals to provide the best content suited to IPTV. IPTV's advantage is its capability to personalize the content as well as watch any program any time. However, the content itself is much more valuable. And researching on what kind of content will attract the family audience will be much more useful.

TV is public, telecom is private; IPTV, the co-product between the "public" TV and "private" telecom, is yet to position itself properly.

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