IceTV: You can't stop technology

Despite PBL court case, the wheels are already in motion for digital TV

Despite an ongoing legal battle with Channel 9 and its parent company, Publishing and Broadcasting Limited (PBL), digital media company IceTV continues to expand. The company, this week, announced a partnership with German product manufacturer Elgato Systems that will bring its Electronic Program Guide (EPG) to Macs.

The partnership is only one of many moves IceTV has planned for the future. According to corporate director and controlling shareholder Colin O'Brien, IceTV will be providing downloadable content, negotiating off-peak download deals with ISPs and developing better advertising schemes - all within the next 12 months.

"These [Digital TV] devices are becoming common overseas," O'Brien said, naming TiVO as an example, which he said has 4.5 million subscribers and a 15 percent penetration of the U.S. O'Brien could not reveal IceTV's subscription figures, but said it has a growth rate of 18 percent per month.

O'Brien blamed Australia's slow adoption of digital TV technology on commercial TV channels, which are likely to face difficulties as technology renders current business models obsolete.

IceTV's EPG service, when used in conjunction with the appropriate digital recorder, allows users to record TV programs up to seven days in advance, and watch them at any time. This undermines primetime TV's competitive strategy of programming leading TV shows at the same time as other popular programs on different channels.

It is this feature of IceTV which has brought it under fire from Channel 9, which is currently suing the company for breach of copyright in the Federal Court.

To add further salt to the wounds of commercial TV operators, digital recording devices also allow users to fast-forward through advertisements in 30-second increments, undermining the advertising revenue-based models of commercial TV channels.

However, while O'Brien is not opposed to the concept of letting consumers decide on whether or not they want to watch an advertisement, he said that removing advertisements was never IceTV's intention, but is an inbuilt function of digital recording hardware.

But, he said, going into the future, it's just something that commercial TV channels will have to deal with.

"At the end of the day, commercial TV channels will just have to change the way they handle their business models, to cope with the advent of new technology," he said.

"Even in the worst case, if they [PBL] beat us, what are they going to do? Deny every Australian of digital TV?"

"It'd be like Australia Post suing Microsoft for inventing the email," he said.

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