Good-bye IP-PRIME, Hello ViP-TV


There it was, a punch in the nose to fans of IPTV in the U.S. back in December when SES announced it was shutting down IP-PRIME

“In line with its plan, IP-PRIME has contracted IPTV signal delivery agreements with 70 small telecom operators, of which 37 have so far reached commercial stage.  However, with a subscriber base of less than ten thousand at the end of November and after more than 2 years of service, the consumer uptake is insufficient to justify continuing operations,” said Rob Bednarek, President and CEO of SES AMERICOM-NEW SKIES.

The IP-PRIME service will continue to operate until July 31, 2009.  This will offer telecom operators an opportunity to orderly transfer their services and SES AMERICOM, in collaboration with third parties involved in the service, to seek the best option to transition the business.

Sure, it was costing lots in resources (people and money) to keep the C-band based service running. It was ahead of all competitors in the U.S., but it was tough to convince SES management it was worth the continuing effort. Inside Americom, people thought the way out of this was to sell the service and related assets to EchoStar, who had their own Ku-band based service, ViP-TV. Ironically, using the AMC-16 satellite they were leasing.

SES may not get to sell it after all. EchoStar launched an IP-PRIME Conversion Program last week:

EchoStar Satellite Services, a division of EchoStar Corporation (NASDAQ: SATS), announced today the company’s IP-Prime Conversion Program, designed to provide continued delivery of video transport services for telco IP headend facilities across the United States. Commercial transport provider IP-Prime has previously announced it will discontinue its video transport service to headend facilities by July 31, 2009. EchoStar’s IP-Prime Conversion Program provides qualified customers with EchoStar’s ViP-TV(TM) transport service, replacement IDC satellite receivers and a standard professional installation, including compatible LNBs, a satellite dish re-point, cabling and connectors.

Interesting development, but not unforeseen. With IPTV subscibers doubling to 3.8 million in North America, EchoStar’s timing is typically very good.

Not surprisingly, Western Europe is still the leading IPTV region in the world, but regions such as North America continue to show their own strong growth paces. That’s the word from research firm Point-Topic and the Broadband Forum, who announced their fourth-quarter 2008 numbers at the IPTV World Forum in London this week.

Western Europe had more than 10.3 million IPTV subscribers at the end of 2008. North America, despite the U.S. being Ground Zero for the recession, saw its IPTV subscriber numbers grow a whopping 113 percent to more than 3.8 million from the end of 2007 to the end of 2008. Worldwide, IPTV subscribers totaled 21.7 million at the end of 2008, representing growth of 63 percent from the previous year.