China’s Cable TV is Strongly Impacted by IPTV

Industry data shows that by the end of the second quarter, the number of cable digital TV subscribers in China had declined to 159.93 million households, for the first time below 160 million. According to the industry, the IPTV and OTT business has significantly impacted the subscription of cable digital television.

It is known that in the same period last year, the number of subscribers of cable digital TV in China was 167.06 million households. And earlier in the end of 2015, the number was 174.65 million households.

However, in sharp contrast to the rapid decline of cable TV subscribers, the number of IPTV users in China are rapidly increasing. By the end of May this year, the total number of IPTV users had exceeded 100 million. And by the end of June, the number was 103 million, with a net increase of nearly 16 million households from January to June.

IPTV has great market potential. The competition among three operators in IPTV field has become more and more intense. As early as the beginning of 2016, China Telecom and China Mobile launched multi-million-level set-top box collection from the group level. And in the first collection of China Telecom Group, the initial bidding number was 11.13 million set-top boxes. But the final number was 21.06 million, which doubled the original one and also confirmed that the market has growing demand for IPTV.

In 2017, China Unicom has proposed to position the video service as a strategic basic business, and to increase the permeability rate of IPTV broadband to 52% in the next three years. China Telecom has put forward “the strategy of firmly upholding IPTV+ broadband” and have each broadband subscriber to be IPTV user. Also, China Mobile has decided to fully develop OTT and IPTV and its goal is to have 50 million users in 2017.

The rapid development of IPTV brings a lot of pressure to cable TV. In Q4 last year, the number of cable TV users in China decreased by 2.15 million households compared with Q3. For the first time, we had negative growth. While the total number of IPTV users reached 86.79 million, up by 40.84 million than 2015, with the growth rate of 89%. In 2016, IPTV business of domestic operators developed rapidly.

It is noteworthy that, IPTV has developed for 12 years. Actually, the number of IPTV users of China Telecom and China Unicom and plus the number of OTT users of China Mobile, which is over 20 million, already exceeded 100 million in 2016. Among them, there are over 65 million of Esurfing HD subscribers and thus Esurfing HD has become the world’s largest IPTV operator. It took cable TV nearly 45 years to have 260 million users while at present, about 210 million users have already digitized. 150 million subscribers are one-way SD digital cable TV users, unable to shift time, replay and watch video on demand. In fact, there are only 67.355 million households of HD interactive digital cable TV subscribers, which can compete with IPTV.

“IPTV has a strong momentum of development. In 2017, as long as it maintains its current development rate, the number of IPTV users may surpass that of cable TV and further widen the gap in some regions. In general, IPTV will become the next major development for telecoms operators, “said Shibin Hong, an industry observer.

​Faced with the competition from above three operators, the radio and television systems have been aware of crisis, and have been exploring some innovative business and new profit models. Last year, Hubei Radio and Television System and Jishi Media successively collaborated with Shenzhen AVIT to try “VR+ radio and television” as industrialized operation and business model. Beijing Sumavision is an listed company that has the highest market capital and the best performance among in radio and television industry. It also invests Video Stitch, which has world’s leading VR live broadcasting techniques, in the Silicon Valley. Shanghai Media Group (SMG), established by Shanghai Radio and Television, is committed to transforming into Internet media. It releases most advanced audience testing platform and system, which allows audience to participate in program production. It truly realized that the content derives from subscribers. According to the relevant personnel, the system has been used in multiple programming, including Go Fighting.

In Hong’s view, if China Mobile could obtain IPTV license and if there are no policy restrictions, it will become a great market challenge for radio and television systems, China Telecom as well as China Unicom. Because China Mobile has sufficient capital investment and can also withstand price war.

In worldwide, the decline of traditional cable television is prevailing. Take the United States as an example, according to the statistics released by Nielsen Company, a market research firm, cable TV is on the eve of decline in the USA. More than 5 million Americans no longer watch television programs through traditional channels. Also, in South Korea, IPTV service subscribers have reached 14 million, while cable TV subscribers are only 14.5 million.

This article originally appeared in Beijing Business Today and was translated by Pandaily.

Click here to read the original Chinese article.