By Han Sang-hee
Local Internet protocol television (IPTV) is expected to change lives to the fullest, according to IPTV operators KT, SK Broadband and LG Dacom.
KT's Mega TV, the first provider here, and SK Broad & TV by SK Broadband, both have 780,000 subscribers, while LG Dacom's myLGtv currently has 80,000.
While the telecommunications industry is looking forward to a jump in subscribers and increased interest this year, viewers and potential subscribers are leaning in for the fun and educational factors.
Min Jin-ah, 40, is a housewife with two daughters. She has always been a big fan of television, but by subscribing to IPTV, her life and her family's have changed for the better.
"I enjoy watching television, and I think IPTV is an interesting tool for entertainment. It's fun and easier to use than I thought. I think it will help my family in all areas, including education and getting information quickly and easily", she told The Korea Times.
Her younger daughter is seven years old and will start school this year. Just to make sure she has learned her basic math and English, Min turns on the children's education channel, which her daughter can watch, rewind and fast-forward whenever she likes.
Education will reach a whole new level, as all three operators offer distinctive programs and sections that will help students and parents alike. LG Dacom has created English content for young children, from kindergarten to elementary school levels. For pronunciation, parents and kids can play the section at three different speeds, which makes it easier to understand and follow. When Min's daughter grows older, she can start watching the "hagwon" programs, which allow viewer to solve problems, check correct answers and discuss them with teachers through the television screen live.
Min's older daughter is 17 and a big fan of entertainment. From shopping and watching movies to exclusive programs, the newly developed IPTV industry will offer a breath of fresh air.
She can also chat with friends while watching her favorite drama or performance, as viewers can simply look up information on actors and everything about performances and exhibitions from tickets and schedules to locations while watching programs on a different picture window.
Viewers also don't have to wait for months to catch popular movies on television, as operators have managed to bring hit movies straight to the small screen.
SK Broadband signed an agreement with film giant Warner Brothers, while KT joined hands with CJ Entertainment, Paramount Pictures and Dreamworks last year, adding to their roster of Sony, Fox, Warner Brothers and Disney.
Historical dramas are sometimes difficult to enjoy when viewers lack knowledge of the historical context, but they'll soon become more enjoyable, as IPTV subscribers can look up the information they need on an Internet sideline.
SK Broadband also allows viewers to chat during programs and fans can also meet in IPTV space through clubs and fan meetings, while KT subscribers can choose to watch footage taken by cameras of their choice, just to watch their favorite celebrity's every move from start to finish.
For Min, shopping is one of the best surprises. SK Broadband allows subscribers to shop while watching dramas, and clothes worn by the actors can be immediately bought with a push on the remote control, while LG Dacom is also planning to offer the service soon.
KT offers an upgraded home shopping system through which the viewer can watch, decide, and make payments through IPTV and its "magic wand" remote control.
Min's husband, an avid fisher, can log online for weather forecasts. While television news channels usually do not give viewers enough information about less popular areas, IPTV offers a special weather forecast service. As soon as the user decides on a particular region and location, IPTV gives the subscriber the forecast anytime he or she likes. LG Dacom's myLGtv offers other specialized programs, including exclusive fishing, baduk and other hobby shows. Viewers can actually play baduk with fellow subscribers, just like Internet game services.
Sports fans will be thrilled to know that most operators offer exclusive footage of sports games, like SK Broadband's Braod & TV's plans to air all of AS Monaco footballer Park Joo Young's games, the first television operator to do so.
When Min's family gets together and feel the need to get rid of stress, they visit a noraebang (singing room). With IPTV, they don't have to step out of their homes, as the operators offer the same system found at noraebang. The family can also test their creativity with operators' special programs made exclusively for IPTV. KT will bring a drama that has multiple endings, depending on the viewer. Instead of being upset about the storylines, the viewers can now become the writer and decide what will happen to the characters and the overall plot.
With high expectations, local IPTV operators will continuously look into bringing more interesting and fun content, along with easier use of the high tech television system.