Global STBs to reach 228MN units by end of 2012, but peak may be in sight

Editor ©RapidTVNews | 04-07-2012

The healthy growth in demand for set-top boxes (STBs), a key signifier of the commensurate robustness of the pay-TV industry, continues apace, new research from Futuresource Consulting has revealed.

Overall, the research shows that STBs will remain a core component of the pay-TV industry’s service proposition as operators utilise the box to exploit existing services and look beyond the delivery of video to improve subscriber retention and grow revenues.

Yet though the analyst estimates that the STB market is on track to reach 228 million units shipped globally by the end of 2012, it cautions that as demand from maturing pay-TV markets like North America and Western Europe begins to slow, the market will start to see moderate decline over the next few years.

To address this issues, Futuresource recognises that box manufacturers are launching a new generation of STBs labelled as media gateways or smart boxes, offering features such as transcoding, wireless routing, multi-platform content management, media distribution and multi-room delivery.

“The roll out of these new boxes comes at a time when the saturation of subscriber bases in mature markets is resulting in the need to develop new non-video related services. The ability to incorporate these boxes within home networking infrastructures and their compatibility with portable devices provides the ability to roll out services that allow the control of in-home lighting, temperature and security. Such offerings are expected to become increasingly widespread due to the competitive nature of the market and slowing video related revenues forcing operators to embrace new growth opportunities,” explained Carl Hibbert, head of Broadcast Research at Futuresource.

Regionally, growth opportunities are still present, says the report. Asia Pacific is expected to represent 45% of global shipments in 2012 and will likely see growth through to 2013, with smaller regions including Eastern Europe. In Western Europe, cable represents the largest proportion of pay-TV homes and close to half of all pay-STB demand and the continuing migration to digital services will drive cable STB growth through to 2014. However, Futuresource believes that cable operators are losing a proportion of their analogue subscribers to alternative pay platforms and FTA services and projects that overall cable subscribers will fall over the forecast period, in turn negatively affecting long-term demand for STBs.

Generally, says Futuresource, there is huge potential for box manufacturers to exploit the growing world of IP video as pay-TV operators are beginning to incorporate IP not only to enhance existing services to the big screen, but to boost content delivery to multiple devices including tablets and smartphones.