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October 18, 2012

Satellite Surges as a Lone Growth Area for Global STB Market

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

The global set-top box (STB) market, including cable, satellite, IP and hybrid IP/DTT, totaled $3.6 billion in the second quarter of 2012, up a healthy four percent sequentially. But all sectors are not created equal: while revenue was up for satellite set-top boxes in 2Q12, it was down for both IP and cable boxes.

“Satellite set-top boxes surged in Q2, with global shipments up 20 percent and revenue up 19 percent sequentially,” noted Jeff Heynen, principal analyst at Infonetics Research (News - Alert)

Image via Shutterstock

The biggest growth, he said, is coming from the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China, where satellite is a go-to solution for reaching vast swaths of the country’s interior section.

“But growth is also strong in Latin America and North America, where DirecTV (News - Alert) and Dish Network are seeing sustained subscriber growth and renewed interest in higher-function STBs like Dish's Hopper,” he added.

The study found that despite a slow-down in spending, cable operators devote at least two-fifths of their total annual capex to set-top box upgrades. The top three cable video service operators by subscribers are Comcast, Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable, and Jiangsu Cable TV in China. Comcast and TWC both just completed their digital transitions from analog, so STB investments have slowed for them. That likely contributed to the fact that after two consecutive quarters of growth, cable STB revenue in North America declined 10 percent.

About 40 percent of all STBs shipped in 2Q12 had high-definition (HD) capabilities and 22 percent had native DVR functionality. Cable and IPTV (News - Alert) providers may start catching up to satellite in terms of investments as consumers start to demand more advanced features and IP-based capabilities, like network DVR or cloud storage. And the vendor stats point to a changing of the guard in some respects: despite a two percent drop in revenue from the previous quarter, Cisco Systems Inc. took the worldwide set-top box revenue share lead from perennial number one Motorola Mobility.

Heynen also noted that in the over-the-top (OTT) world, Apple (News - Alert) TV is the most prominent OTT media server platform in North America and, increasingly, the world.  

Tara Seals has over thirteen years of experience as a journalist. Her areas of expertise cover the waterfront of the service provider segment, especially mobile networks, devices and applications; and video infrastructure, content and broadcast models.

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