A recent iSupply market research report predicts an explosive 12-fold increase in IPTV subscribers over the next four years, with a compound annual growth rate of 92 percent (see Internet TV use expected to soar). Now that's an expanding market.
IPTV is fundamentally a very different animal from other recent developments in consumer video, like hi-def DVD or H.264. Those are evolutionary developments. IPTV is disruptive.
In less developed parts of the world, where traditional cable-TV hasn't yet become widespread, IPTV simply represents a more up-to-date and flexible way to deploy good-old cable-TV services. But in the U.S., and other mature markets where cable and satellite-TV penetration are already quite high, IPTV represents much more than just another way to get traditional cable and broadcast networks. While those channels, by definition, will always represent the most popular programming, IPTV opens the door to a whole lot more.
The telephone companies know this. Already telcos have been making content deals with Akimbo, probably the most well-known of the new crop of IPTV "alternative television" services in the U.S. Telco-IPTV can offer all the channels cable offers, plus take advantage of the inherently switched nature of IPTV service by offering a cornucopia of programming from smaller, more esoteric, independent sources.
Diverse as Akimbo's programming is though, it still represents a "walled garden" approach of selected content, as opposed to the open-access anything goes approach of web sites like YouTube. But it seems inevitable that the gatekeeper role played first by broadcast TV, and then cable and satellite, will ultimately be eliminated by IPTV. It will indeed be possible for just about anyone to send out a TV program for public consumption.
Whether anyone will watch, of course, is a very different matter. But make no mistake about it: IPTV technology promises an end to the era of major media having absolute control over what the public does and doesn't see on TV. Let the disruption begin!