You've got to hand it to the BBC. Even in these late Birtian times,
the British Broadcasting Corporation still manages to be a class
After 'Perfect Day' comes a star-studded series of glossy promotions
from Leagas Delaney to publicise digital TV.
And not a moment too soon, it seems. You may be fed up to your molars
with reading endless articles about the digital revolution, but half the
people out there who will decide how fast it takes off and who the
winners and losers will be still haven't got a clue what it's all
It's another blinding example of the chasm between what the media
community thinks the public want and what the public themselves actually
get excited about, for most people the prospect of digital TV right now
is about as sexy as Monica Lewinsky without a cigar.
According to new research, 45 per cent of punters haven't even heard of
digital TV. The truth is that while we're all gleefully picking over the
politics of Sky Digital versus ONdigital and parading our ill-formed
digital TV credentials before confused clients, real people couldn't
What's more, for all that the BBC promos look lovely, people aren't
going to buy digital TV for better sound and picture quality (the main
thrust of the promos). If they are to be persuaded to part with their
money at all, it will only be for some fantastic new channels.
Which could be a problem. If people haven't been persuaded to opt for
multichannel TV already, given the high-quality movies and sports on the
analogue Sky platform, how will digital TV draw new subscribers in?
It's a sobering thought, particularly in the context of last week's
other news: the six channel packages with which Sky will launch the
concept of digital television. Smaller, cheaper packages could prove a
lure, but will people really be lining up to pay pounds 6.99 a month for
Sky One, Sky News, Discovery, Home & Leisure, Bloomberg and QVC? For an
extra pounds 2 things start looking up, and the Sky Family Pack at
pounds 11.99 is tempting. Throw in the sports and films services and the
price is pretty much the same as the analogue version today.
So what's new about Sky Digital that will really persuade the punters to
get their wallets out? The only real answer, if you assume the improved
technology will only appeal to a handful of early-adopters, are the new
channels on offer, such as MUTV, Film Four, UK Gold Classics and three
new Discovery channels. Ummm ...
Having seen previews of the Channel 4 and ITV autumn line-ups, it's
clear digital TV will be launching at a time when the analogue
terrestrial channels are pulling out all the stops to entertain us
through the long winter evenings. It's going to take more new, and
better, channels to really persuade non-multichannel homes to sign up
for digital. More channels - and a lot more time and money.