Is free internet TV over broadband the next big thing?

9 Sep 2008

Sick of hearing broadband providers harp on about speeds and contention ratios? Magnet chief executive, Mark Kellett, has said providers should offer something different and, true to his word, today the company introduced free, live IPTV to PCs on 10Mbps and 24Mbps connections.

Magnet has created a basic free package of five TV channels including RTÉ, RTÉ2, TV3, TG4 and Bubble Hits. The package includes 12 free radio stations that will come as part of a choice of broadband and phone packages starting at €29.99.

Magnet said it intends to broaden the offering by including additional bundles of channels, such as those provided by Virgin and Dave, for an additional subscription fee.

The IPTV service is effectively driven via a multicast one-stream connection and the software electronic programme guide (EPG) was developed in conjunction with Inuk Networks.

The service can be viewed by PC or Mac users and Kellett said Magnet is working on a Red Hat Linux version.

“This TV in the PC widens the audience and attractiveness of Magnet to the consumer,” Kellett (pictured) told “The offer today is not just about speed, it’s about content and broadening our offer to consumers.

“We predict this will have a major impact on customer acquisition. Customers today are faced with a choice, either you buy the fastest available or the cheapest available – there’s nothing else in the market. What this is saying to customers, there’s something else in terms of innovative services that will change the user experience.”

According to Kellett, the service will also enable Magnet subscribers with a number of PCs in their household to enable multi-room TV without having to pay an additional cost or see a drop in service quality.

“This is also about the cost experience. This service allows for multi-room viewing and it’s free TV. You don’t have to buy a set-top box. It’s quite a dramatic change for the TV landscape, particularly for the TV providers and especially the broadcasters. It’s a pretty significant opportunity for Magnet.”

He hinted at future social networking applications that Magnet hopes to deploy around the PC TV screen, as well as advertising and commissioning models with video game companies, for example.

Kellett also said it is a good way of allowing households to move to digital TV without having to pay for an expensive set-top box or trying to figure out digital terrestrial TV (DTT).

“It raises an obvious question for the economic benefits of DTT, given that we could compress this down to 800Kbps and that means we have the potential to provide this across a wide footprint and customer base. It then raises questions around what is the necessity of DTT.

“DTT right now is being positioned in such a way that you need to buy a set-top box and pay €9.99 for channels that we launched today for free. You don’t need a set-top box, or pay a subscription, it’s free as part of the package.

“There may be places where DTT has a natural home but with our launch today we will address 500,000 homes and certainly there’s an opportunity for us to grow our customer base and the footprint of the addressable market over the coming months and years.”

Kellett said the service is currently available to new and existing customers and the company would be willing to work with other providers if their infrastructure can carry the service.

“The problem is that some providers haven’t been investing in infrastructure … they’ve been investing in marketing campaigns instead. But if we were to provide this over their infrastructure, it may well crash their infrastructure,” he warned.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: Mark Kellett, Magnet chief executive

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years