Battle for the next stage of TV heats up

DESPITE the ubiquity of the internet, television viewing habits on both sides of the Atlantic remain doggedly traditional.

However, the battle for control of the next generation of TV viewers is hotting up. Manufacturers, such as Samsung are already rolling out internet-ready TVs as they prepare for a monumental shift in viewing habits. BBC’s hugely popular iPlayer on-demand service has proved UK viewers are prepared to log on to tune in.

Now a host of firms hope to take the concept to the next level and, more importantly, monetise it.

Apple, which has already revolutionised the music market, hopes to ride the crest of this wave. It is expected to next week announce a new service allowing users to rent TV shows and movies for as little as $1 (64p).

And yesterday Walt Disney-owned ABC said yesterday it will launch its first video-on-demand site outside the US by streaming its content on BT Vision.

The internet TV market-place in the US is already highly competitive, with Hulu, a joint venture between Disney, News Corp and NBC Universal, making in-roads on the dominance of user-generated video site YouTube. The potential value of internet streaming has led to speculation Hulu could be in line for an IPO valuing the firm at a staggering $2bn.

So is this the beginning of the end for traditional broadcasters? Ian Maude, analyst with Enders Analysis, is not so sure.

He told City A.M.: “At the moment most content providers use internet TV to support existing revenue rather than generate it, by giving subscribers free online access to shows.

“The margins can be very high with online TV but the question is whether there is enough appetite for premium shows over the internet to sustain it. I can see why providers are getting involved – it could be a huge revenue stream in the future. But it is the first step in a very long road.”