There are now over 45 million subscribers to internet protocol television services around the world, showing a 34.6% increase of over 11.5 new subscribers in 2010, with 3.4 million added in the final quarter. Impressive though this may sound, the number of homes watching video over the top of their broadband connection is far greater, among over half a billion broadband subscribers worldwide. A new Informa report forecasts that by 2015 there will be 380 million homes worldwide viewing programmes on their television over the internet.

“2010 was a banner year for IPTV and broadband,” said Laurie Adams Gonzalez of the Broadband Forum at the IP&TV World Forum conference and exhibition in London. “We have watched how broadband is changing the world and creating a connected society that few could have imagined a few years ago.”

Based on data provided by broadband research company Point Topic, Europe remains the leading region for IPTV, with 20.7 million subscribers, up by nearly 25% over in 2010, led by France with over 10 million subscribers, up from 8.5 million a year previously. Germany now has 1.5 million IPTV subscribers, an increase of 35%, while the number in Belgium grew by 30% to approaching a million. Italy saw a small fall in the number of IPTV subscribers at around 0.8 million.

Asia showed growth of over 50% over the year and is predicted to become the largest single region for IPTV adoption during 2011. China also has over 10 million subscribers, up from 6.5 million a year previously, and is set to become the leading country for IPTV adoption. South Korea now has 3.6 million subscribers and Japan has 2.2 million.

The United States has 7.3 million IPTV subscribers, an increase of 29% on the figure of 5.6 million a year previously.

At the end of 2010 there were an estimated 523 million broadband subscribers worldwide, up 12% on the previous year. Europe is again the largest single market, with 188 million, although Asia with 184 million and an annual growth rate of 20% will soon overtake this to become the leading broadband market.

There are now 136 million broadband subscribers in China. “The Chinese broadband juggernaut continues to overshadow other markets,” said Oliver Johnson, chief analyst at Point Topic.

The United States has 87.1 million broadband subscribers, followed by 34.4 million in Japan, 26.7 million in Germany, 19.8 million in France and 19.6 million in the United Kingdom.

Broadband is still delivered to the majority of subscribers over telephone lines, reaching 331 million subscribers or 63% of the world total, and this share is likely to grow as a result of the size of the addressable market. The share of coaxial cable is correspondingly eroding, at 106 million or 20%, while fibre is growing fast and is now serving 72 million customers worldwide.

With growth in broadband adoption and speed, Informa forecasts that worldwide viewers of television services delivered over the top of broadband will outnumber IPTV services delivered over a managed network by 2013 and will reach 380 million by 2015.

“It’s abundantly clear that viewing online video via connected devices will be both a long-term and mass-market activity,” said Giles Cottle, a senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “All of the key ingredients for uptake of these services are in place.”

Back in 2005, when informitv first reviewed the emerging landscape, the consensus forecasts of analysts suggested that there would be around 25 million IPTV subscribers worldwide by the end of 2010. Screen Digest estimated that there would be 5.7 million IPTV subscribers in Europe in 2010 and Informa predicted that there would be 25.9 million globally. We respectfully suggested that “it is entirely possible that these analyst forecasts could be exceeded.” As indeed they have been.

We also concluded: “The real competition will come not between operators of rival platforms, but between closed and open networks, as carefully cultivated walled garden services are overrun by the rampant growth of upstart operations propagating across their networks.” So it seems.

At the IP&TV World Forum this year we learnt that Netflix has 20 million customers in the United States alone. Around 60% of those are subscribers are streaming and they are each watching for around 25 hours a month. That may be replacing viewing of packaged product on disc rather than live television, but it demonstrates that it is an adequate substitute for traditional video on demand services delivered over a managed network and indicates the disruptive potential of over the top distribution.