Whenever digital TV is mentioned, another word is never far behind.
’Interactivity’, we are told, will be digital’s most prodigious
The Independent Television Commission flew in the face of this belief
when it awarded the three remaining digital terrestrial multiplexes to
the British Digital Broadcasting consortium last month. BDB, an alliance
of the ITV companies, Granada and Carlton, backed by programming from
BSkyB and the BBC, offered little in its bid to set the pulse racing -
as the ITC itself admitted. While the rival Digital Television Network
bid put interactivity to the fore, BDB stuck to the multi-channel TV
formula of ’classics’, low-budget entertainment, movies and sport.
It is the last two that are key. For advocates of interactivity, it is
hard to admit that linear movies and football are of greater appeal to
the public than all those fantastic services that two-way communications
But it’s true and, therefore, the ITC had a duty to choose BDB.
Through BDB, digital terrestrial will get its best shot at carving
itself a niche in the future of British TV. But, home shopping aside,
the absence of interactive services from its proposals makes that shot
BDB reckons there are eight million homes that would never buy a
satellite dish, and it is this group it will be targeting. But a safer
bet is that British Interactive Broadcasting - the Sky/BT consortium
that will be providing digital satellite services - will persuade Sky
subscribers to invest extra to receive better coverage of what they
already like enough to pay for.
More than this, however, BIB will also include an array of genuinely
interactive content. The cable industry has its own plans and both
digital satellite and cable are likely to launch before terrestrial.
BDB partners must not commit that old generals’ folly of fighting the
next war with the tactics that won the last one. Sports and movies may
woo viewers initially, but to lock them in, BDB will need other weapons
too. In the absence of any interactive proposals of its own, the
consortium’s only hope may be to strike a deal to carry BIB’s services