The previously described business models define the total IPTV subscriber market, with each representing an STB installed in a home and capable of receiving some form of IPTV. The STB may be free, rented or bought by the customer. Additional services such as premium channels, VOD and person-to-person video-calling can only be sold only after a subscriber has an STB.
In certain specific cases consumers receive IPTV for “free” or by default as part of a “triple play” bundle of wireline voice, IPTV/video and broadband Internet. In other words, IPTV is supplied to them whether they want it or not — they do not really make a choice to buy it.
These subscribers receive from their IPTV provider a “free” STB and access to a small selection of channels, in return for signing a longer-term contract for broadband or a voice/broadband package. This category of IPTV subscriber does not have an equivalent in the existing pay-TV environment. It reflects the need for new IPTV operators to find ways to popularize the service.
Hong Kong provides a good example. The carrier PCCW offers all its long-term broadband customers a “free” STB and access to a small number of channels. Though many of these customers may choose to buy extra channels, a sizable proportion stick with only the free channels — if, indeed, they use the IPTV service at all.
In France, the carrier Free offers all its subscribers a home gateway device with STB capability built-in. All Free’s customers who live close enough to its asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL)-enabled exchanges receive a selection of basic IPTV channels automatically for no extra payment.