Digitv.com 3 

1 February 2002 tbs.pm/1649

Well, ITV’s arrival onto Sky Digital has been rumoured and talked about for longer than any other station, and now it’s here.

The channel has had some very public problems with Sky for a long time now, and although there have been times when a kind of “reconciliation” seemed to be taking place, events have just bought them straight back to loggerheads.

ITV1 launched onto Sky Digital at 6pm on Wednesday 21st November, and ITV2 followed within 24 hours on 226. We’ll see if the arrival of these two channels on Sky Digital has any impact on their audience figures.

ITV

While we think about regional output for a moment, word has circulated that the BBC will slowly be bringing the English regions onto Sky Digital, with 5 being available from early next year.

This still doesn’t rectify one major problem, that of people in England not being able to watch BBC-1 Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, alongside BBC-2 Scotland and Northern Ireland and BBC 2W.

But it does go some way to getting the BBC’s regional output onto Sky Digital, perhaps brought on by ITV’s arrival on Sky Digital. Whether more will come of this yet remains to be seen.

The past couple of months seem to have been a good time to launch if you ran a shopping channel, because a lot did just that. Simply Shopping Plus, Simply Jewellery, Simply Music, Simply Jewellery Plus, Home Shopping Europe, Q24 and Auction World.tv have all launched recently.

In many ways, the explosion in shopping channels recently mirrors a similar explosion in shopping websites that occurred in the late 1990s. Will a similar fate befall some of these shopping channels? Time will tell.

ITV Digital, formerly known as Ondigital, have brought in the person who led the Sky turnaround in the mid-1990s, David Chance.

It seems that Carlton and Granada aren’t quite ready to give up on the Digital Terrestrial platform yet. Perhaps there is still life in the platform, although it is in trouble, and maybe there is a little bit of life left in DTT as a subscription platform.

But without question, there has to be a lot of improvement in quality and service and most importantly, subscriber numbers and churn rate, before the platform can really be seen as successful.

I read an interesting article recently from Ian Hargreaves in the FT. This article came out 2 days before my own article was published on EMC.

In the article, he claims that ITV Digital’s closure would probably bring about the collapse of Digital Terrestrial Television, and then proceeded to explain why the Government wouldn’t allow DTT to collapse.

In response to him, I say, no, ITV Digital’s closure would not bring about the collapse of DTT – in fact it wouldn’t even come close to collapsing DTT. What it might do is end any hopes for a subscription-generating service on DTT, but that would be all. Digital Terrestrial would carry on.

And speaking of terrestrial, the Government has all-but-admitted they won’t be able to switch off analogue in 2006, though they still believe they can get it switched off in 2010. I’m afraid I don’t think they can with any safety.

For a moment, let’s look back to the last time something this big happened. That would be the switching off of 405-line VHF TV back in 1985. The first service to launch on UHF was BBC-2, back in 1964.

BBC-1 and ITV both went UHF in 1969, although both had services on VHF bands until the end. As Digital Terrestrial launched in 1998 and it was 21 years before VHF was closed from UHF’s opening, forward 21 years from Digital’s launch would be 2019, so let’s round that up. 2020 would be the most practical target for closing UHF analogue transmissions, and certainly not before.

Interactivity is now becoming the big buzzword around the world of digital television. Interactive Children In Need, Interactive Walking with Beasts, Interactive Discovery Mastermind, Interactive Millionaire, Interactive commercials, Interactive this, Interactive that, it seems these days that most everything on TV either is or is going interactive in one form or another, and you can’t escape the “Press Red for Active” DOG on your screen.

A busy month in the world of Digital Television, and there is unquestionably a lot more to come in the next year or so.

The whole shape of Digital TV could change drastically in the next year, and we’ll be watching, every step of the way.

A Transdiffusion Presentation

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