If there’s one market everyone can agree will continue to grow, it’s IPTV. Since its tentative first forays in 1995, it has become a behemoth of the telecommunications industry, capturing huge segments of developed markets across the globe. It’s little wonder, with that in mind, that Research and Markets caps IPTV growth at a compound annual rate of 19.41% until 2016. By 2019, claims ABIResearch, IPTV will account for 15% of all pay TV subscriptions – or around 161 million customers.
One IPTV firm that has seen its star rise steadily is Hibox, a Turku, Finland-based outfit, that entered the market in 2005 with money from management and employees. In 2007, with several glowing reviews of its offerings in place, the firm was snapped up by the growing Anvia group, which it has been a part of since 2007. Anvia, a multifaceted ICT firm with 738 employees and a 2012 turnover of $157 million, is widely recognized as the market leader for telecommunications in Finland. The company also has offices in the northern Finnish city of Vaasa, and the Austrian capital Vienna.
Since 2007, Hibox has pursued a double-pronged approach to the IPTV field. The first is Aura, a complete IPTV middleware and OTT software platform that delivers TV, video-on-demand and interactive services. Its Smartroom hotel solution offers a rich, cloud-based user interface, and can be paired with guests’ own smartphones or tablets. Social media connectivity is also a priority for Hibox, whose platform allows users to, for example, view real-time Twitter feeds during a show.
“For the Telecom providers, our catch-up feature for watching shows you missed and didn’t record along with our fully integrated mobile platform has been really popular, especially when combined with their OTT initiatives,” says Hibox VP global sales Danny Shaw. “Providers have found that we are agnostic as to which hardware they choose, as long as its web based, and they can expand their customer base beyond their current geographies and provide their local content to expats living in other countries.”
It scored a big victory in January 2012, when Finnish shipping company Viking Line teamed up with Hibox to provide an IPTV offering on its cruiseferry the MS Viking Grace – the world’s first liquefied natural gas-powered large-scale passenger ferry – which is plying a route between Turku, Finland, and the Swedish capital city Stockholm.
Hibox has targeted developing markets – in particular Latin America and Eastern Europe. It has targeted resellers, integration partners and sales consultants in each region, in an ongoing expansion plan. Last June, Hibox registered another victory when it announced that Taiwan-headquartered Dune HD TV Series set-top boxes would be fully integrated with its flexible OTT and IPTV platform.
But the hotel industry still provides a bulk of Hibox’s revenue. Chains including Omena Hotels and Sunborn have ensured a firm hold on the northern European market. You can even watch the Hibox platform at the official hometown of Santa Claus, Rovaniemi, Finland! IPTV and OTT clients include Poland’s Multiplay, Bahrain’s Nuetel Communications and, closer to home, northern Finnish Telco Pohjanmaan Puhelin Oy (PPO).
Danny Shaw explains the company’s market strategy to Red Herring, following its victory in Amsterdam: “For competitors, we work globally, and we run into several regionally focused IPTV/OTT vendors for our target market of tier two and three telecom providers.
“For hotels there are many vendors, two or three global groups and probably 50 focused regionally,” adds Shaw. “We have two clients based in the USA who did a search of available systems to expand their WiFi or Internet services into hotels by up-selling IPTV. In each of their searches they evaluated over 60 systems and ended up selecting ours because of the flexible architecture for integration into their other back office systems and because we had a flexible business model and could price to grow as they grew.” With a Top 100 Award to add to its growing client base, there may well soon be Hibox offices in a city near you.