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French Digital Terrestrial Pushes for VOD

December 06, 2010

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The French media regulator, CSA, has opened a tender for a push video-on-demand (VOD) service to be delivered over digital terrestrial television (DTT). Both pay and free services are eligible to apply.

The move follows push-VOD DTT trials running since 2008 operated jointly by telecommunication company TDF and pay-TV operator TV Numeric. Push-VOD technology operates by delivering content to a customer's digital video recorder (DVR) overnight. This can then be consumed at the customer's leisure without utilising valuable primetime bandwidth.

The tender indicates that operators can expect to deliver 52.5 hours of standard definition (SD) content or 15 hours of high definition (HD) content per week.

At face value, push-VOD is a sound strategy: it turns cheap nighttime bandwidth into a premium service. However, such a service requires customers to own a digital video recorder (DVR). Success is therefore likely to be dependent on the penetration of DTT DVRs. In France, the DTT DVR penetration of the installed base will grow from 13.5 per cent in 2010 to 20 per cent in 2014. This increased share of the installed base will represent further potential customers for the push-VOD service.

The successful applicant will also have to balance the amount of content offered with the transmission quality. If the applicant opts for exclusively HD content, it seems likely they will offer a VOD movie library. 15 hours per week would only cover a couple of sitcom or drama series which consumers expect in high volume. For instance, in the UK, Top Up TV offers a DTT push-VOD service with over 700 broadcast TV shows per month. In contrast, the movie variant of this service offers 28 films per month.

An alternative to push-VOD over DTT is to offer linear channels over DTT and deliver VOD over the internet (often streamed rather than pushed). This approach has been used by many IPTV operators, such as BT in the UK and Vodafone in Spain, due to the efficiencies of linear delivery over DTT. However, the bandwidth available for these hybrid VOD services is often limited to less than that required to stream HD video. For operators who cannot control the internet pipe, such as YouView, launching in the UK next year, this is a barrier to guaranteed service quality, making push-VOD a more attractive option for HD services.

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