STB markets face different prospects

Chris Forrester

The future for set-top box manufacturers and suppliers looks rosy, but the cable, satellite, DTT and IP-based sectors will grow at significantly different rates, says a report from InStat. Cable is especially under threat, not helped by the maturity of the market, while IP-based box shipments will fall back in the coming years.

Each of the major set top box (STB) segments, including Cable, Satellite, DTT and IP, faces widely different outlooks, according to market researcher, In-Stat. Satellite, the largest of the STB segments, saw 6% growth in 2008, bolstered by triple-digit growth in the Asia/Pacific region. Unit growth is relatively steady for 2009 and 2010.

The cable STB market grew 8% in 2008 to nearly 45 million units. However, growth in 2009 looks to turn negative in the relatively mature market.

The nascent IP STB market grew 5% in 2008, but such breakneck growth will not continue. With few new telco TV deployments, unit shipments of IP set top boxes will see only slight increases in 2009 and 2010.

Finally, digital terrestrial (DTT) set top box units grew an astonishing 200% in 2008, driven by high-definition (HD) converter boxes supporting the US analogue TV shut off. However, these shipments represented an unsustainable bubble. Growth falls back to 23% in 2009 and will contract nearly 30% in 2010.

Across the STB markets, personal video recorders (PVRs) and a transition to HD are among the major technology drivers. Global PVR unit shipments (across all STB types) exceeded 25m in 2008, an increase of 14% over 2007.

Other STB research highlights include the following:

• Motorola held onto the top market share position in IP set top boxes in 2008, but its market share slipped from 2007 as Cisco ramped up shipments.
• Multi-room or “whole home” PVR service has become available in an increasing number of cities in the US over the last year.
• HD Satellite STBs will comprise 18% of total unit shipments in 2009.
• The semiconductor opportunity in standard definition (SD) DTT STBs will peak in 2011 at nearly $500m.