The World Cup will not only provide entertainment to millions around the globe, it will also make a huge impact on TV sales.

High-definition television (HDTV) sales are expected to kick off big time this year, fuelled partly by footy fans eager to catch World Cup action in all its glory this summer. Telewest has already launched an HDTV and since its merger with ntl is a stronger competitor to Sky, which has launched its own HDTV offering. Sky has also been busy building strength in other areas. Its purchase of Easynet positions it well to take on another major source of investment in the entertainment industry – IPTV.

Analyst firm Datamonitor estimates European IPTV subscriber numbers will swell to 5.6 million by 2009, although it will face stiff competition from satellite, cable and digital. BT is set to enter the IPTV fray later this year, targeting the 15m homes that do not already have a pay-TV service from either Sky or ntl/Telewest.

More choice of TV formats

The message is clear: 2006 is all about producing “a greater range of content across different media,” according to
Adrian Drozd, senior media and broadcasting analyst at Datamonitor. “So as well as the standard TV format, we’re seeing plenty of activity in the mobile space, as vendors bring TV to mobile phones and other devices.”

But is this investment warranted and will the punters pay? The response so far to mobile TV has been decidedly lacklustre. Three-quarters of the people surveyed by RBC Capital said they had no interest in watching TV on mobile phones. And according to a March survey by Google, Brits spend more time Googling than goggling. The average person spends 41 days a year surfing, compared to 37 days a year watching TV.

There are plenty of vendors, however, who are clamouring to get into the mobile TV space and convince us to become even more square-eyed.

In October, Apple launched a video-capable version of its iPod portable music-player and is forging deals with television networks for popular shows. TiVO, the personal video recorder company, also has plans for its subscribers to download shows on to iPods and other portable devices.

Most mobile TV is currently streamed over 3G networks, but if the technology really takes off, sending an individual data stream to each viewer would not make sense. Instead, it’s expected that dedicated mobile TV broadcast networks will spring up, transmitting TV signals at a different frequency from voice and data.

There is still a lot to sort out on the business side too, not least how the revenue will be split between the broadcaster and the mobile operators as well as who will fund the content creation. Television production company Endemol has set up a mobile-TV division and is talking to operators and broadcasters about new show commissions.

Music companies are also eager to make their mark in the mobile space. In March, mobile technology and services companies mBlox and NewVisions introduced a mobile phone delivery system that incorporates network charges for downloading music. People will pay a one-off price of about £1.50 rather than paying network fees, which can outstrip the song cost itself.

Online sales surge

UK mobile carrier 3 says it has already achieved average sales of 200,000 single music tracks a month. Overall, market research company Forrester estimates online music sales will jump to €3.9 billion in 2011 from €279m this year.
Music publishers are still suffering from the effects of illegal downloads, even though more people are paying for their music and other content legitimately.

“Consumers are starting to use them, but it’s all about providing the right price and content,” says Drozd.

The rise of Apple’s iTunes Music Store has proved how successful paid-for content can be. Long-term iTunes and its imitators could be seen as the future of home music and media. While we’re beginning to see the triple-play of television, internet and phone, this consolidation could go much further and our television, DVD and music library could be rolled into one device.

Wherever we are and whatever we are doing, it seems that the entertainment industry moguls and operators are determined to bombard us with as many things as possible to distract us.