Tiscali expands U.K. IPTV service

2 09 2007

Following its £50 million acquisition of IPTV service HomeChoice, Tiscali yesterday announced the expansion of the service to eight towns and cities outside its original footprint of London and Stevenage.

Around 5 million households in Milton Keynes, Hemel Hempstead, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Leicester, Liverpool, Salford and Warrington will now be able to access the service, offering 50 digital TV channels, including Sky One, Sky News and Sky Sport News. Customers can also pay extra for
Sky Sports 1, 2 and 3 and Sky Movies channels.

Prices start from £19.99 per month, with bundled offer two-megabit broadband, telephony and TV.

The service competes with BT Vision, which now has 44,000 subscribers and is on track to top 100,000 by Christmas. France Telecom-owned Orange is due to launch its IPTV service for the U.K. later this year.

U.K. ISPs lobby against BBC iPlayer: net neutrality debate lands in Britain

13 08 2007

It started with a bit of BBC-bashing in yesterday’s Mail on Sunday, followed up by pieces in the Financial Times and Independent.

The story: U.K. ISPs are concerned about the strain the BBC iPlayer will place on the IP backbone — the industry concensus, as reported, being that someone has to pay and it should be the BBC for flooding the internet with all of its nasty big video files.

The Mail‘s coverage was rich in motoring metaphors to help 4×4-owning yummy mummys across the nation understand the story in the context of speed cameras and congestion charges. Of the U.K.’s other two nationals which covered the story, stories were restricted to mere coverage of reported fact.

The FT was the only paper to clock the fact that the BBC isn’t the only U.K. broadcaster to have launched potentially bandwidth-intensive services: Channel 4’s 4oD and ITV Broadband to name but two others.

It falls to the non-UK press to offer more intelligent comment, admittedly at a time when the nationals are going to press, but take, for instance, this Washington Post report, quoting industry analyst Jonathan Coham of Ovum: “It’s interesting they are making such a big deal out of the BBC’s iPlayer.”

Not to mention The Register, a site which has done more than its fair share of BBC iPlayer-bashing in recent weeks and by the same token staunchly outside the mainstream media loop, which was the first to splash the story that BT doesn’t (at least at a corporate level) stand by the line reported over the weekend:

“BT has denied reports that it is working with other ISPs to pressurise the BBC or consumers into paying extra for delivery of iPlayer on demand TV shows,” it says.

So given the BT restraction, the critics would appear confined the Carphone Warehouse and Tiscali U.K., two ISPs which have made much of reducing broadband access to the level of mere commoedity, undercutting the competition, and their margins in the process. So who’s laughing now?

Only a fortnight to go before the nationals have some real news to report on and it’ll be the end of the season to bash both the BBC and the British Airports Authority.

Of minnows, big ponds and wonky economics

3 08 2007

More consolidation among U.K. ISPs… Three weeks ago it was Tiscali’s £210 million acquisition of Pipex which turned heads in the City. While at the beginning of July and less likely to register as a big money deal, but noteworthy given who one of the players is, BT bagged small ISP Brightview Group for £15.8 million.

So if the Tiscali / Pipex deal was about extending reach (to 55% of the U.K. population) and unbundling more local exchanges, then what’s the motive behind the BT / Brightview deal? If both were based on subscriber numbers alone, Tiscali values 1.8 million Pipex customers at less than a penny each, while BT thinks Brightview’s 62,000 customers are worth a whopping £254 each.

Arguably, BT has purchased a relatively upmarket subscriber base: Brightview is a white label ISP for retailers Waitrose and John Lewis, alongside its own brands, Madasafish and Global Internet.

Reuters quotes Bridgewell analyst Dan Gardiner, who said the deal highlighted BT’s consolidation strategy within the ISP market of focusing on small, bolt on acquisitions of high quality customer bases rather than mass market players.

Expect lots more of this over the coming months as smaller, independent operators struggle to maintain margins for a product which has been reduced to mere commodity.