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Public Broadcasting and Digitization of Television:

Public Broadcasting and Digitization of Television:

Internet Protocol television (IPTV), a medium whereby subscribers can enjoy
multichannel TV, video-on-demand (VOD), and other services using an
Internet-connected set-top box (STB), is beginning to spread. In Japan, where
four companies currently provide IPTV services, the total number of subscribers is now well over 100,000 and closing in on the 200,000 mark.
Until now, terrestrial broadcasters were not able to give IPTV service
providers consent to retransmit terrestrial broadcasts because of problems
with copyright. However, on December 15, 2006, in the 165th extraordinary
session of the Diet, the copyright law was revised to the effect that terrestrial
broadcasts can now be retransmitted on IPTV. In the revised copyright law,
retransmission via IPTV is defined as “linear input of information received to
a transmission server at the same time as broadcast and retransmitted simultaneously.” It states that it does not include accumulation of broadcast signals
received in the transmission server for later broadcast at times determined by
the user (non-linear use).
Since IPTV involves TV delivery on closed networks and is expected to be
carried out in the same license area as the terrestrial broadcast, in practice
transmission is accessed via the optical fiber networks of several companies
such as NTT. The new copyright law came into force on January 11, 2007.
As the relevant legal infrastructure is thus strengthened, digital terrestrial
broadcasting is expected to become available on IPTV services and greatly
accelerate their spread. With that increased prevalence, IPTV will have
increased potential as the second major cable-based medium after cable TV.
Over a period extending from the end of 2005 to the beginning of 2006, the
NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute conducted a field survey of
around 1,000 IPTV service subscribers in Japan to find out what kind of services they use.

Current Circumstances Surrounding IPTV

All over the world, a revolution has begun in the telephone industry, namely,
the transition from conventional telephone exchange networks to communica159
tions networks using Internet Protocol (IP). While some IP networks, such as
Britain’s, use existing copper-wire lines, in the United States and Japan the
shift to IP is occurring together with the replacement of the physical infrastructure itself with a high-capacity network of fiber optic lines. Moreover,
whereas telecommunications previously used a number of different protocols
depending on what was transmitted (voice, data, etc.), the creation of the new
IP network integrates those different types into a single system. This integration has great significance: it enables telephone, Internet, multichannel TV,
VOD, and various other services to be provided in bundled combinations (e.g.“triple play” and “quadruple play”), and this potential is attracting keen attention from service providers as a way to increase profitability. The focus of this
trend is the potential for providing digital terrestrial broadcasting services via
IPTV. From the government’s point of view, this would spur the spread of digital terrestrial broadcasting, while for telecommunications companies it represents an opportunity to use terrestrial broadcasting as a drawing card to attract
subscribers to multichannel TV, VOD, and other services that generate high
profits.

Spread of IPTV in Urban Areas

IPTV is regarded as a viable solution to poor TV signal reception in urban
areas (occuring in roughly 10 percent of such areas) due mainly to buildings
blocking the signal. In cases of poor reception in mountainous areas, usually
the causes are clear and the problem can be resolved by installing relay stations or cable TV services. In urban areas, however, it is often impossible to
determine the specific cause, and enhancing communal reception facilities,
the conventional solution to poor reception, may not solve the problem completely. This situation points to considerable potential for the spread of IPTV
as a solution to urban reception difficulties. Because income levels are thought
to be higher in urban than in rural areas, service providers see great revenue
potential in offering packaged services that combine telephone, IPTV, VOD,
and Internet access. For this reason, cable TV providers and telecommunications companies are beginning to compete for the urban market. Meanwhile,
the cable TV industry itself is changing. In the past, the cable TV business
was thought to require long-term investment because of the perceived need to
construct transmission facilities. Now, however, since it has been clarified
that operators registered under the Law Concerning Broadcast on Telecommunications Services will receive the same treatment as existing cable
broadcasters, more and more companies are launching new ventures in the
cable TV industry. This situation points to the growing potential for competition between existing community-based cable TV providers and the industry
newcomers.

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