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Average Set-Top Prices Fell In 2011: Study

While set-top box unit shipments grew 13.7% in 2011 on an annual basis, revenue in the category was nearly flat -- up less than 1%, to $13.3 billion, according to Infonetics Research.

That indicates average selling prices dropped last year, even as growth in HD and DVR set-tops helped keep the declines in check, according to Jeff Heynen, Infonetics' directing analyst for broadband access and video. He attributed the trend to "the growth of lower-cost STBs in emerging markets, particularly China, combined with the increased competition we're seeing in the more mature markets."

The four largest set-top suppliers worldwide are Motorola Mobility, EchoStar Technologies, Pace and Cisco Systems. Infonetics did not disclose estimated market share, but according to Heynen those four leaders were separated "by only a few market share percentage points" in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile, Internet set-tops -- such as those made by Apple, Roku, D-Link, Netgear, Western Digital and TiVo -- showed strong growth in 2011, albeit from a much smaller base. Revenue grew 38% with unit shipments jumping 68% in 2011, Infonetics estimated. (The firm did not disclose the estimated size of the Internet STB segment.)

Over the next five years, IP set-tops and hybrid IP/digital terrestrial TV set-top unit shipments are forecast to have the strongest growth among the various types of set-top boxes, according to Heynen.

On the headend side, the video infrastructure market (which includes VOD, streaming content servers and video encoders) grew 6% in 2011 to $803 million, according to Infonetics. That came after annual declines in 2009 and 2010 amid the global recession.

In 2012, Infonetics is forecasting double-digit percentage revenue increases in the global video infrastructure market. Over the next five years, from 2012 to 2016, the firm expects a cumulative $1.9 billion to be spent on standard- and high-definition MPEG-4 video encoders.

Huawei led the global VOD server market in both Q4 2011 and for the overall year 2011, Infonetics said. In the fourth quarter, following Huawei, Motorola and ZTE were neck-and-neck for global VOD revenue.