Week in research: IPTV subscriptions slow in 2012; webchat popular contact center option

IPTV slows down: The two largest U.S. IPTV players, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T), saw a combined 14 percent drop in IPTV subscribers in 2012, according to IHS. However, the decline appears to be somewhat lopsided. Verizon contributed the most to the lower number of subscribers for the year, since it suspended new deployments of FiOS, adding 553,000 video subscribers last year, a 13.3 percent decline. AT&T, by contrast, added 723,000 video subs for the year, down 7.3 percent compared to 2011. "The disruption caused by Hurricane Sandy may have slowed FiOS's progress," said Erik Brannon, senior analyst for television research at IHS. "However, the major reason for the deceleration is that FiOS is largely finished expanding its footprint into new geographic areas of the United States. FiOS's penetration is significantly higher than that of U-verse, causing long-term growth to slow for Verizon's IPTV service." Release

IHS IPTV subscribers 2012

Webchat rules in contact centers: Webchat is at least as effective as a phone call when it comes to helping customers, a new study by BT (NYSE: BT) found. In a survey of six BT call centers located in the UK and India, researchers found that the webchat option is increasingly being used--and that 88 percent of its "advisors" (customer service personnel) like webchat as a service option. "We found that webchat is considered to be an equivalent and often superior method of working compared to calls," said Nicola Millard, customer experience futurologist at BT Global Services. "Webchat also sits comfortably alongside social media, as it allows organizations to draw customers into a more private dialogue, where they can discuss personal details and specific issues in a one-to-one channel." Release

UCaaS disrupts business voice: Cloud UC may disrupt traditional business voice services, a Synergy Research study suggests. The UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service) market makes up less than 1 percent of the current business voice market but is forecast to grow 76 percent per year over the next five years. Business VoIP providers including 8x8 (Nasdaq: EGHT), RingCentral, ShoreTel and West IP are already staking their claims in the market, accounting for 45 percent of UCaaS subscribers worldwide. Traditional telcos aren't asleep at the wheel, however. "While the newcomers have the chance to exploit their early leader advantage, I fully expect telcos to aggressively target UCaaS opportunities in the near term," said Jeremy Duke, Synergy Research Group's founder and chief analyst. "Enterprise voice and UC technology vendors will also have to move swiftly if they wish to exploit this market disruption." Release