Web-based TV broadcasts have enjoyed explosive growth
This Sunday marks the second anniversary of the arrival of Internet-protocol television (IPTV) in Korea.
IPTV delivers television and movie content in real-time via broadband Internet networks as opposed to traditional TV, which is broadcast through radio frequencies, cable connections or satellite signals. The biggest advantage offered by IPTV over conventional TV is that it offers video-on-demand capabilities to viewers.
The Korea Communications Commission, the state broadcasting regulator, held a ceremony yesterday at COEX, southern Seoul, attended by heads of the country's three IPTV service providers - KT, SK Broadband Co. and LG U+ - among other officials.
According to industry sources, subscribers to IPTV services in Korea number 2.93 million and will soon break the 3 million mark. Korea is the fourth-largest IPTV service provider in the world after France, the U.S. and China, the Korea Digital Media Industry Association said.
The rapid acceptance of IPTV exceeds that of cable television, which took more than four years to achieve 1 million subscribers after its launch, while satellite television took one year and nine months. Market watchers said that the growth in numbers are impressive especially when considering that the global financial crisis occurred soon after IPTV was introduced.
Industry sources say the availability of many channels and the diversification of content is encouraging.
"IPTV has reached schools, military barracks, regional day care centers and some culturally isolated areas", KCC head Choi See-joong said at yesterday's ceremony. "With more investment and collaboration with content providers, [the KCC] hopes [IPTV] will compete with companies like Google, Apple and Microsoft".
According to the KCC, the number of channels provided by the three companies rose to 300 this month from 251 a year ago. In particular, the Korean IPTV service is noted for its wide selection of education and sports content.
In the case of sports, the three companies launched in May a service called SPOTV, securing broadcasting rights to major sporting events including local professional basketball and baseball games.
The industry is now seeing a key transition to "smart TV". Smart TV is similar to IPTV in that it's Web-based. But the biggest appeal of smart TV is the availability of applications, like those enjoyed on smartphones, which is fueling their use.
Some experts, like Kwon Kang-hyun, vice president of the Media Solution Center at Samsung Electronics, forecast that smart TVs will account half of the Korean TV market by 2013.
Samsung and LG have been rushing to introduce the latest versions of smart TVs. "Soon IPTV will evolve into smart IPTV", said an industry expert.
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