(Running notes from the 6th Communication Days conference in Bienne, Switzerland)
If you live in Switzerland, you can get Internet TV from at least three providers: Cablecom (the country's biggest cable operator -- in Switzerland virtually all households have cable TV, and Cablecom reaches about 55% of them), Bluewin (a subsidiary of former telecom state monopoly Swisscom), and Zattoo (a peer-to-peer IP-TV system - see this previous post).
Didier Divorne, who runs (non-professionally) the telecom information site allo.ch, introduces the session by explaining the differences among the three services (Cablecom: TV cable and set-top box; BluewinTV; ADSL and set-top box/DVR; Zattoo: software-only), their pricing (Bluewin 105 CHF per month; Cablecom 100 per month; Zattoo free, ad-supported) and their offerings (Cablecom: about 90 channels + special offerings; BluewinTV: about 130; Zattoo; about 40). And stressed that, in truth, the choice is not always there (there are regions or neighborhoods that are not served by Cablecom or by BluewinTV).
Richard Eisler, CEO of price-comparison site Comparis, offers his view of the market (he starts off saying that "BluewinTV changed my life" -- because the DVR allows him to record programs -- but "it's really for couch potatoes").
Switzerland has 2.9 million households with TV reception. BluewinTV about 50'000 customers (1.7%), Cablecom Digital-TV (200'000 clients or 6.9%), SRG Swiss Broadcasting Corporation by satellite (440'000 users, 15%), Zattoo (about 465'000 registered users -- "but I'm two of them, so this figure is to be taken carefully"). He goes over advantages and disadvantages of the three systems (pointing out how erotic programming is a great pull for the Cablecom offering, "although it is never mentioned in their communication").
The CEO of Zattoo (the name means "big crowd" in Japanese) is next on stage, Beat Knecht. He shows how Zattoo works, step by step, and gives details about the company (they are licensed in several European countries). Fully ad-supported. Right now across Europe: about 1.2 million users. In Switzerland, 50'000 of their members use the app every day, 80'000 at least once weekly.
Where is Zattoo being used? Homes, workplaces -- "it's becoming an office application" -- and schools. You can work with the PC while watching TV (television is moving into the background, see this previous post). Zattoo is a hit particularly with young adults (two-thirds of registered users are between 18 and 34). Knecht sees Zattoo as a driver for broadband adoption. Biggest weakness: if you travel abroad, you can't access the service, because the rights they acquire to redistribute TV channels are national.
Then, the CEO, of Cablecom, Rudolf Fischer. He talks about restructuring the company during the last 7 years, taking Cablecom from an analog cableTV operator to a digital services company (more than 50% of revenues now come from digital, and they're adding 10'000 new clients per month for their digital-TV offering). Cablecom has two sorts of clients: digital natives and digital immigrants. The natives have no problem with technology, but that's still a small portion of the Swiss population. "For the digital immigrants, the ease of use of our set-top box is really key."
For BluewinTV Christian Petit takes the floor. He recognizes problems such as freezing images -- because of VDSL interferences etc -- and slow channel switching, but underscores that the product is very new, and that BluewinTV offers a range of additional features that weren't available with analog TV. Only 10% of material recorded on the DVRs is kept long-term on the users' hard-drive.