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Tear up the Harris survey

Try asking the right IPTV questions

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The answers came back that Joe Public is most comfortable with the cable operators as the prime supplier.

In fact the answers were:

  • A cable company like CableVision or Comcast (33 per cent)
  • A new company that has no baggage (25 per cent)
  • A technology company like Cisco or Microsoft (15 per cent)
  • A telephone provider like Verizon or SBC (13 per cent)
  • An Internet provider like AOL or Earthlink (11 per cent)
  • A content provider like Disney or CNN (4 per cent)

AOL is involved in web TV, and Disney this week re-launched Moviebeam, and it sounds like this is a simple branding question that really asks in the interviewees mind "Who do you currently associate with TV services right now?"

Other major omissions are DirecTV and EchoStar, who are certainly going flat out to produce a hybrid system that is indistinguishable from (real) IPTV, but which uses satellite as the primary distribution mechanism.

The survey goes on to suggest that a pitiful amount of US consumers have any interest, just 4 per cent, in TV on their cell phones. But funnily enough we are prepared to bet that those services take off far faster than IPTV in the US, whichever definition you use.

Twelve percent (12 per cent) of the Harris respondents said they would sign up and try IPTV immediately if it were only available for their PC, and 57 per cent said they would wait and see how others like it. Almost one in five (18 per cent) said they would try IPTV immediately if it were available for their PC and could be sent to TVs in their house using a settop box, and 59 per cent said they would wait and see how others like it. Minorities interviewed said they are happy with their current service.

The confusion is extremely clear, since we know of no IPTV system that goes primarily to a PC. However this confusion is understandable. The US consumer is looking for a genuine breakthrough in internet TV, and has no idea that telco TV really IS delivered using the internet, just because it uses IP packets to carry it. We had an expression a while back to define "disruptive innovation" a term bandied about during the 80s and 90s in an attempt to understand what leads to breakthroughs in technology. That expression was "half as good, for a tenth of the cost".

That rule works say for Skype in VoIP services. It almost works for mobile TV (a quarter as good for about a third of the price) but not for IPTV (twice as good for about the same). Disruptive innovation sells itself. Everything else needs hard marketing dollars.

In the end only 17 per cent of the Harris survey said they would cancel their existing cable or satellite TV service and go with IPTV, so perhaps those people are either expecting internet TV to be really good (perhaps like the Akimbo service) or these are the ones who actually understand what IPTV really is.

The biggest chunk, 66 per cent, said they would keep their existing cable or satellite TV service and give IPTV a trial run, which of course won’t happen. What will actually happen is that the Telco TV will be out there in malls and supermarkets and airports and everywhere demonstrating just what it is and people will see it and want it (or not want it) and have no idea that IP is involved at all. And everyone will try web or internet TV room say Google.

For Telco TV it will be classic consumer activity where the magic ingredients are "I’ve seen it and I want it, I can afford it and I know someone that has one, and he says it’s good." This scenario takes time to build up steam and then has the ability to take on an iPod-like frenzy after a few years.

Harris should do the survey again, defining the terminology, and putting in a proviso that this is NOT about IPTV, which is another form of cable TV, and then ask away about internet delivered video. Harris is one of the biggest market research companies in the world, and should know a lot better.

Copyright © 2006, Faultline

Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.

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