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Missing, presumed tardy: Orange IPTV

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Orange is cutting it extremely fine if it plans to meet its own target of launching an IPTV service in the UK this year.

Repeated announcements by the former portable telephone network have pledged we'll see it complete its quadruple play of mobile, home phone, broadband, and pay TV by the close of 2007. Orange now has just 35 days to make good on its promise.

We haven't heard a peep out of the France Telecom-owned outfit on its televisual ambitions since early in September. Its last official statement said it had designed some cartoon characters to act as the service's mascots. Orange has only revealed one content deal so far, with Disney.

We asked Orange last week why it has gone all quiet on the IPTV front, but it hasn't been able to muster an answer. If it manages one before Christmas, we'll let you know.

The last couple of months have been turbulent at Orange UK. A big shake-up in October saw UK chief executive Bernard Ghillebaert moved on to "executive vice president of sales and customer experience" [read: in charge of call centres].

Prior to his departure, Ghillebaert conceded that Orange had lost some of its "sparkle" as a brand. Part of the cause has certainly been its mis-steps and repeated technical problems with the unbundled broadband network it is hoping to pipe telly over. A BBC Watchdog survey in March rated Orange as one of the worst ISPs in the UK.

Orange is not the only one having problems with IPTV rollout, however. BT Vision has missed customer sign-up targets; recent figures showed Tiscali's Homechoice is actually losing customers; and this weekend the Sunday Times reported that Virgin Media has mothballed its plans for on-demand for its non-cable punters until at least 2009.

Richard Broughton, a pay TV analyst at Screen Digest, said: "Nobody has launched an IPTV service on time and every network is different. Broadband is by no means a saturated market yet - the TV opportunity is still there for Orange." He noted that the Orange-branded IPTV service run by France Telecom across the Channel is one of the most successful in the world. ®

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