How do you make IPTV sound sexy?

We're tired of blockbuster movies, and we don't want to pay for on-demand sports content any more. That's according to Screen Digest's latest research report, which predicts how the European TV-based video-on-demand (VoD) and pay-per-view markets will develop over the next five years.

The research suggests that demand for blockbuster movie titles is waning. In 2001, 60 per cent of overall VoD revenues were generated by big film releases. However, this had halved to 30 per cent by 2006, as sports content enjoyed increased exposure and availability.

However, both sports and major movie content will ultimately be challenged by TV shows, archive footage, and library films, says Screen Digest. Blockbuster movies will still stuff some €700 million per year into the coffers of content providers by 2009. Adult entertainment will also be a big seller, bringing in half a billion Euros by the end of 2011.

Today, just under 8 per cent of Western European households actively use VoD services. But by 2011, Screen Digest expects this number to have risen to over 20 per cent, or 36 million homes. Some 14 million of these will be connected via IPTV services, the remainder via digital cable.

In the UK, we're lagging behind our Euro cousins when it comes to the availability of VoD services. Things are slowly improving. Live services from the likes of BT Vision, Virgin Media, Tiscali Movies Now, and Sky Anytime already offer movies, sports programming and other content on demand.

Similarly, Internet-based catch-up TV services from the BBC ( iPlayer) and Channel 4 ( 4oD) give UK consumers instant access to shows that they might have missed.

Sky's massive satellite bandwidth enables it to offer variety of NVoD (near video on demand) services to its customers, including: +1 channels; repeat channels and multi-channel movie showings. The Sky Anytime service also pre-downloads popular content onto Sky+ systems to give Sky subscribers a VoD experience.

Mix of free and paid-for content

"The growing number of subscription services in Europe suggests that we could be heading in the same direction as the US," says Richard Broughton, an analyst at Screen Digest.

"Companies such as Virgin Media and Italy's Fastweb are already emulating the big US cable operators, providing free TV-on-demand with their standard packages. However, as we've shown in this research, video-on-demand has to yet to become a commodity in Europe, and until it does, European viewers will continue to have to pay to view," Broughton said.