ONdigital was upfront about it last week at a series of press
conferences heralding its launch. There might be problems with the
supply of the set-top boxes, costing pounds 200, which are needed to
receive the signal. The company spoke of ’tens of thousands’ being ready
and more suppliers expected to come online in January. Philips is
currently making them for the new broadcaster at a rate of 2500 to 3000
Stephen Grabiner, ONdigital’s chief executive, refused to put a number
on how many boxes were ready, or reveal any targets. Insiders suggest
that between 70,000 to 100,000 will be available between now and
Getting clever with boxes
Given that the company says it has already had 150,000 telephone calls
from people interested in the service, and that it is spending pounds
10m on a heavyweight launch campaign between now and Christmas, there is
a danger of demand outstripping supply. If it does, it’s not something
that is worrying ONdigital.
’If we sell out of boxes and we’re pushing to keep up with demand in the
run-up to Christmas we won’t be that unhappy,’ says an insider. The
company’s feeling is that if people are persuaded to buy ONdigital, they
will wait a while until a decoder box is available rather than go to a
ONdigital’s launch advertising, through BMP DDB, uses celebrity duos to
promote the service, bringing together the likes of Jonathan Ross and
Sir Richard Attenborough, Ian Wright and Terry Venables and Chris
Tarrant and Melvyn Bragg.
It is clear that ONdigital, which is jointly owned by Carlton and
Granada, sees ITV as a powerful marketing ally in the pay-TV market. The
ITV franchise owners have seen Rupert Murdoch’s BSkyB dominate pay-TV
throughout this decade. This is their chance to hit back.
All sides involved in the digital battle declare that there is enough
room in the digital market for satellite, terrestrial and cable. But
privately they know that ONdigital and SkyDigital are ultimately chasing
the same consumers - those who up until now have not been persuaded to
buy multi-channel TV.
Rivalry hots up
Of course BSkyB will make money out of digital, regardless of which
delivery system triumphs. Its premier programming, from movies to sport,
is on satellite, cable and terrestrial digital. But BSkyB knows that
movie and sports rights have to be renegotiated, and it has been a
combination of its programming and dominance of the distribution system
that has made it the clear winner in pay-TV up to now.
What is certain is that from this week Sky TV has a real, national rival
in the pay-TV market. ONdigital has managed to do what cable in this
country has up to now failed to: come up with a clear, coherent
marketing message; offer key services and develop a unified brand to
take on Sky.
WHAT’S ON ONDIGITAL?
ONdigital offers 12 primary channels. Subscribers make a choice of six
primary for pounds 7.99 per month or all primary channels for pounds
9.99 a month.
There are five premium channels. Sky Sports 1 (which gives you Sky
Sports 3 free) Sky Premier and Sky MovieMax. Any one Sky channel costs
pounds 11 a month, any two cost pounds 15 a month, all three Sky
channels cost pounds 18 a month. FilmFour is also available for pounds 6
a month. MUTV is available for pounds 5 a month.