Many players in the field are getting their act together with the aim of increasing market share. The keys to success are service quality and the range of functionality provided.

Interview with Alexandre Lafond, Founder and CEO of Mediactive Group.

L'Atelier: What is Internet Television all about?

Alexandre Lafond: First of all we need to understand that what we call Internet television splits into two quite different services. First of all there’s Internet TV or "online TV". The principle here is to gather all the online functionality within the television itself, which means that the TV set doesn’t need any external device. The other option is Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), which the main operators – Free, Orange, etc –  offer.  IPTV uses an external device – a “set-top box” – to add Internet functions to a traditional TV set. This functionality then gives you numerous different options: recording TV programmes, VOD, access to Internet services, plus online games, etc.

L'Atelier: What are the differences, in terms of user experience, of each offering?

Alexandre Lafond: Both offerings will probably trigger a profound change in the TV landscape, but each in its own way. If we take the IPTV operators, it’s the new functionality of downloading video content that will be the attractive change. In contrast, the manufacturers of Internet-enabled TV sets do not have the rights to VOD, nor can they redirect the customer to subscription-only channels. So by default, they will have to focus their offering on interactive or gaming elements. In both cases the major change will be the increased interaction between TV and other digital equipment such as PCs or smartphones. Long term, online TV should be a sort of amalgamation of a normal TV, a computer, and a games console.

L'Atelier: With the arrival of new providers such asGoogle and Apple, how will the various players stack up?

Alexandre Lafond: There again, the potential will depend on the companies concerned. Let’s take online TV first. Apple’s huge database accessible via iTunes gives the company great opportunities. As for Google, despite strained relations with the major TV networks (ABS, CBS, etc), the purchase of Motorola has given it a conspicuous entree into the network equipment market. Looking at the IPTV market, Free holds a considerable lead, due to its high-quality software and consumer interface products. Long term, it’s more than likely that the current market boom will disappear and be replaced by a market concentrated in the hands of a few major operators. However, there’s no way that the current biggest suppliers can count on staying at the top once the market becomes mature.